Sessions and Speakers

©M. Silvestri
High waters

Session 1 Responses of the urban ecosystem to the challenges of climate change

One of the key impacts of climate change identified for Venice and its Lagoon, as well as for the Adriatic Sea at large, is a dramatic increase of the sea level within the current century. In order to avoid potential disasters caused by “high water”, the Italian authorities have authorized the construction of an underwater barrier system, referred to as the MOSE Project. This system should help Venice and its Lagoon avoid extreme flooding and high waters as soon as 2014. The continued existence of Venice and the preservation of its cultural heritage are highly connected to the aqua alta flooding phenomenon; however, other natural hazards as well as this artificial barrier will result in considerable changes within the Lagoon ecosystem, all of which are highly unpredictable. Furthermore, the impact of the industrial and agricultural activities, as well as hydrological changes in the surrounding area increases the uncertainty of the future quality of the Lagoon’s ecosystem.

A better understanding of the vulnerability of Lagoon, based on the climate change scenarios at local level as well as the ecosystem response to global change mechanisms, could help to better define the limits and opportunities of the development of Venice and of the proposed plan for a Regional City. The knowledge of these interactions within an urban Lagoon eco-system will enhance the chances for a series of coastal cities worldwide to be better prepared for natural hazards and a changed environment.  


©The Sign Painter
Island of Sant'Erasmo, Venetian Lagoon

Session 2 Impact of global change on socioeconomic development

The socioeconomic development of Venice has recently reached a critical level, requiring strategic decisions be soon taken in order to avoid the slow deterioration of the city’s cultural heritage and society. The development and changes in the city’s population, transportation, industry, trade, services, tourism, agriculture, and fisheries in the Lagoon, as well as in the surrounding area, are all densely interlinked – balancing these aspects is essential for preserving the quality of life for residents and for protecting the environment. Facing global change mechanisms means the socioeconomic system must adapt within this highly vulnerable and complex ecosystem context. The Port of Venice, the Marghera industrial site, the Vega Science Park and the Arsenale are “mega” enterprises within the context of a planned ”city region” concept, which could easily overload the current carrying capacities of the cultural and natural heritage of Venice and the Lagoon.

Science is called upon to shed light onto how to best manage and adapt to these global change trends, and to provide a source of guidance for the local decision-making processes necessary for safeguarding Venice and its Lagoon.


©Aqualta 2060, JDS Architects -

Session 3 Culture and development: from restoration to revitalization?

Culture plays a vital role in harnessing creativity for economic and social development. Cultural innovation also contributes to a city’s social fabric, and helps to strengthen a sense of shared identity. While addressing transversal global issues (tourism, governance, creativity, restoration, revitalization), this session would like to shed some light on the possible future(s) of the City of Venice, in particular concerning the restoration of Venice (how to better impact economic, social and human development), the enhancement of sustainable and quality tourism (how to promote cultural assets and resources in a historic city), the revitalization of a living heritage (how to sustain the dynamics of intangible cultural heritage) and the making of a creative city (building a dynamic and innovative cultural sector). Important urban rehabilitation projects offer today a new opportunity to question the main social and cultural purposes of historical preservation in a historic city like Venice. Meanwhile, the growing concern with regards to the ever declining resident population and the current trends of mass tourism, poses an unprecedented range of questions for the enhancement of sustainable cultural practices and the possible emergence of a “creative city”.

Despite a very fragile human and social fabric, can Venice gain and maintain a competitive edge in the global cultural arena?

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