Tuesday, 30 December 2008

BRIDGEWORK

Do you know how many bridges there are in Venice?

FOUR HUNDRED AND NINE!

Although, to be fair, some sources say 378 and still others 400, but then we are talking about the city of mystery and - in any case - there is, as of last year, a new bridge, so it may well be time for a recount...


The Ponte di Calatrava (designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava) is Venice's first new bridge in seventy years - and only the fourth to cross the Grand Canal - but it has been the subject of ceaseless debate and criticism, chiefly for its design which uses traditional Venetian materials of glass and stone but a great deal of chunky iron underwear and has a functional modernity that is at odds with the classical architecture of most of the city...


It has also been slated for its lack functionality: unevenly placed steps on the ascent and descent that are a tripping hazard and also - since many of the steps are glass - a slipping hazard in wet and icy weather...


Then there is the cost: several times beyond the approved budget (even without the decorations that were originally intended for it, but which, somehow, got left off drawings!) and which is destined to rise even more as the bridge now has to be adapted to provide wheelchair access under modern-day Italian laws relating to disabled access...

As for all those other bridges (however many they are): they span some of the 150 canals that divide the island city of Venice into what are, effectively, 118 smaller islands...

After eleven years of visiting we still haven't crossed all those bridges, but here are a few we have traversed, some of them many times...










***
Meanwhile...

Did you know that at midnight tomorrow, New Year's Eve, Greenwich Mean Time will be given a Leap Second? As Wikipedia explains...

A leap second is a one-second adjustment that keeps broadcast standards for time of day close to mean solar time. Broadcast standards for civil time are based on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), a time standard which is maintained using extremely precise atomic clocks.

To keep the UTC broadcast standard close to mean solar time, UTC is occasionally corrected by an intercalary adjustment, or "leap", of one second... When a positive leap second is added at 23:59:60 UTC, it delays the start of the following UTC day (at 00:00:00 UTC) by one second, effectively slowing the UTC clock.

So, at midnight tomorrow, there will be seven - not six time - 'pips' and just before you get to shout HAPPY NEW YEAR, you'll have one whole second of extra life!

Make sure you live it -- to the full!!

Oh, yes, and still on the subject of timings... I know that Christmas is been and gone and that the shops are full of New Year Sales (instead of the Pre-Christmas Sales) and that the Radio Times contains more summer holiday advertisements than programme details, but there's still time - although not much - in which to catch Wendy Hiller and Alec McCowen in my Christmas radio dramatisation of The Fox at the Manger.

Based on the story by P L Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, it can be heard, on-line, until 31 December via the BBC's Radio 7 iPlayer (you'll find The Fox on the alphabetical listing of shows) but you've only got today and tomorrow to tune in!


***

And FINALLY...


A FOOTNOTE on the Ponte di Calatrava...

The original glass steps had - at more expense - to be made opaque as voyeurs were (apparently) photographing up the skirts of women from boats passing underneath...

These Italians! Any excuse!


Images: Brian Sibley & David Weeks © 2006/8

For more Venice imagery, visit my website to view the album Venice Observed and then follow the links at the foot of that page to three further albums of photographs.

5 comments:

Boll Weavil said...

That bridge is odd but carries on the tradition of putting something very new and modern in the middle of an area dominated by more classical looking architecture. I have to admit, the odd spacing of the steps did catch me out a couple of times and it wasn't even slippy...
Poney : The only programme that you really wanted to watch or listen to in the Christmas schedules that, for some reason, doesn't turn up on I Player or Listen Again even though an out of date news programme that was broadcast after it does.

Suzanne said...

Well, you managed to place at least the word "underwear"! Keep going!
supeleen: the unnatural slope of a bridge

Brian Sibley said...

BOLL - Of course, the odd, soon becomes the commonplace. It always amazes me, for example, that the visitor accept the run of Palazzos down either side if the Grand Canal as if they were all of a-piece when many of them are separated by just a few yards but as much as several hundred years!

SUZANNE - I have to say: supeleen is inspired!

Ryan Rasmussen said...

Brian, these photos are just amazing. I don't know when we'll make it to Italy, but I know at least ONE city we'll be visiting. Thanks for sharing!

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks, RYAN, we try... The thing is, Venice turns every photographer into camera-whore!