Will a huge new flood barrier save Venice?
On a gray, late-winter day, a converted chapel in the Arsenal, the city’s medieval boatyard, hummed with 21st-century activity. Engineers were looking at screens that displayed tables, maps, and charts on the conditions of the Venetian Lagoon.
This was the MOSE control center: the operational heart of a megaproject to protect Venice, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, from threatening waters. For nearly seven years, the engineers here have raised and lowered virtual doors, gathering a series of data to be conveyed into a sophisticated forecasting model.
Spread across dozens of islands and known as “the floating city” for its ubiquitous canals and bridges, Venice has grappled with inundation for centuries. But due to natural subsidence and the higher tides caused by global warming, the city is more vulnerable to flooding than ever before. So a flood barrier seemed like the obvious way to thwart future disasters.
MOSE (an acronym for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, or “Experimental Electromechanical Module”) is one of the world’s largest and highest-profile civil-engineering works. It consists of a series of retractable floodgates stretching across the mouths of the lagoon’s three inlets. These gates can be raised on command to create a temporary wall against the sea in the event of a high tide.