The transformation of the heart of Venice: rebirth in pictures

Centuries pass, then thousands of years, and Venice does not sink. When the veil of the morning mist thins, the sun rises and lights up the eternal pink and ocher dream of Serenissima. Somewhat worn mansions admire their stone laces reflected in the mirror of pearl-colored channels. The past does not pass. We no longer have time. The gulls gaze at each canalised wooden mooring line. Later, they will make raids on the trays of tourists sitting on the balcony. Wings folded, heads bobbing and walking like an ancient Venice with hands behind their backs, pigeons in St Mark’s Square continue to wander carelessly. Luminous green algae can feast on the wet facades of their buildings, Venice remains active, cheerful, frantic, commercial and restless. With Covid’s mistake and imprisonment, the lake held its breath for two years, but the pasta! The Doges Capital has no intention of lowering its flag. Among its churches, cathedrals, and palaces, there is no ludo, lament, derescendo. The gin is always blinking. The Queen of the Seas continues to breathe, have fun and feast. Already, everything is back to normal. Except for that, precisely, not everything can be resumed as before.

People have long been coming to celebrate in the alleys and squares of the city. In the eighteenth century, the carnival continued all year round. Cardinal de Bernays, the ambassador of France, is still better known for his cavities than his missions. He would divide his nights with young ladies, sometimes nuns, and with spirited Casanova. Aboard the gondola, we embarked on Cythera. There were calendars with the names, addresses, prices and specialties of the concubines who became the main source of income for the Glorious Republic. When we left their arms, we went to gamble in the casinos. Under the pretext of coming to admire Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, Tiepolo, Canaletto, or Guardi, people were rinsing their eyes at little girls or sisters who worked as models. Venice was a party from January to December. Europe has made it their favorite amusement park. The miracle is that it did not stop.

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Everything has been cleaned and bleached to announce the return of the former Queen of the Seas to rise again

Prostitution has disappeared but its magic remains. Imagine that this city of 50,000 residents (an official but discussed figure) welcomes 30 million visitors annually. If we applied the same treatment to 3 million Parisians, that would be 1.8 billion tourists! nightmare. And for the municipality of Venice, the jackpot is, but above all, a threat. Instead of the damned sea, it’s the horde that overwhelms Serenissima. This cannot last. Now, for great evils, great cures. So the city is launching a new challenge: to become the global capital of sustainable development. Moreover, a common sense option in the only global city that is forbidden to cars. In addition to scooters and bicycles, they are allergic to narrow, shoulder-wide streets and the myriad acrobatic bridges that span hundreds of canals. The result: the first phase of this massive project ended with a big party on Friday 8th April in the Nabataeans, the majestic white stone building that borders, decorates, illuminates and gives its unique character to St. Mark’s Square.

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Here the upper management of Venice worked and seated the plaintiffs, its highest officials, responsible for implementing the directives of the Doge and the Council of Ten. The offices and accommodations were luxurious. Masses of cherubs, big cats, and eagles rose from the gilded wooden furniture. The Moorish Ebony Obaid was distinguished by its faux marble tops. Ivory shells, tin threads, mosaics of hard stones, garlands of gilded bronze gave the gentle dictatorship of the republic an air of joy. Then Napoleon arrived, the last Doge was expelled, the Habsburgs moved in, and silence fell on the paper pushers that let their beautiful decor fade in hundreds of small, unimportant offices. All that was left was a broken envelope asleep in which was the memory of greatness at low tide.

But this is where Venice decided to take back control of its own destiny. Huge building site. Five years of work where we removed everything to find everything and revive everything. The name of the magician who accomplished this feat: David Chipperfield, one of the stars of world architecture, is covered in distinctions and author of, among others, the Neues Museum in Berlin and the America’s Cup Building in Valencia. The result of his intervention was amazing. Centuries of successive additions (rooms, changing rooms, huts, bathrooms, etc.) have been forgotten. We found the original bricks, wood and tiles to give the place a wonderful simplicity, close to that reinvented by Tadao Ando at Maritime Customs. Everything has been cleaned, stuffed and bleached so that everything remains raw, soft, noble and simple. So we created majesty by connecting all the inner buildings, tracing the rows and welcoming the light until the frame announced again that the gun was working.

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On the third floor, the human safety net spreads its fight to help refugees

Therefore, she needed a sponsor. And it was easy: in Venice, we’re in General. But Generale in Italy such as Fiat and Ferrari, Sophia Loren and Monica Bellucci, the Colosseum and the Uffizi … one of the pearls of the national heritage. A giant insurance company: four hundred and seventy subsidiaries operating in sixty countries. It has 67 million customers. It’s simple: it interferes everywhere. In the world and of course in all the boards of directors of La Bot. There, for families, the yield of the Generali is similar to that of the Napoleon in French homes. Definitely, tough, pure green-white-red. In Venice, Generali plays at home. Founded in 1831 in Trieste, the company settled on the lake in 1832. Its emblem is exactly the Lion of Saint Mark, in red, a warm, cheerful color in desirable contrast with the cooler blue tones of Axa and Allianz, their rivals. Today, the heart of the Generali’s reactor in Milan beats, but the board of directors continues to meet in the huge room whose windows open onto Saint Mark’s Square, the bell tower and the church.
Needless to say, the gentry, first level, noble floor, remained in company hands, stately, carved with splendid eighteenth-century frescoes and parquet floors with precious wood inlays. On the other hand, the rest of the building announces the new profession of Serenissima. On the second floor, offices for rent to NGOs, start-ups, showrooms, schools, universities and businesses. We’ll come there to work and we won’t let tourism take away the city’s forces. But our main task will be to imagine the future. Because here is also the headquarters of the foundation “Venice, the World Capital of Sustainability”. A major project headed by Renato Brunetta, the current Italian Minister of Public Service, Venice, is determined to interest Brussels and UNESCO in all of their challenges. From electric boats to clean water resources, air conditioning and a thousand urban amenities, everything should make Venice a model.

However, it’s on the third floor which makes it more accessible and more than anything in the heart of the Generali: the global headquarters of its foundation, The Human Safety Net. Gabriel Galtteri, the company’s president, and Philip Dunnett, its general manager, came in person to present in the 230-seat auditorium that slipped into the building to attract top-level seminars. And there, we’re no longer talking about money distributed, amounts invested, and generous funding. We are talking about humanity. And mankind has endowed with great potential. Substance but above all delicate. Founded in 2017, Human Safety Net wants to give everyone the opportunity to know their potential and then tap into it. His big fight looks at the refugees. In 23 countries, in partnership with dozens of associations, the Foundation gives hope to people weakened by life. In France, this ranges from a Lebanese immigrant opening a food truck to a Syrian setting up an organic pizza service or a metal recycler in Perpignan. The association helps set up the company, offers nine months of management training, and listens and gets started. Already, 500 French employees are helping the organization make it Generali’s number one soft-power weapon. But now, as the refugee crisis explodes on all continents, it is Venice that will lead the world from Piazza San Marco.

Venice is Italy, its charm and romance. But be careful, it’s Northern Italy, the monstrous efficiency of the Doge’s Republic and the charm of Les Plombs, its colossal prison transformed into a refrigerator in winter and a kettle in summer. On the lake, forget Roman fantasies and the wonderful chaos of Naples. On the streets, on the beaches, in the “motoskavy”, everywhere you come across signs where everything is shown “vitatto” – that is, forbidden. In this city where everything seems to be in shambles, everything is controlled. There is no doubt that his dreams of giving birth end in songs. To spot “Venice, the Capital of Sustainability,” a woman is watching: Renata Kudlow. For ten years she was the superintendent of Venice (a kind of prefect), before she was in Rome, and today she presides over the Giorgio Cini Foundation, erected in San Giorgio Maggiore, the cathedral designed by Palladio. On the show, Linchpin has one ambition: to bring back the time of the Grand Tour, when the best minds in Northern Europe came for months to observe artists, their city, and government in action. Hostile to the constant influx of visitors during the day, she fights to stop opening new hostels. What you want is to welcome students who will create the world of a sustainable future. Let them settle down and study. Until Venice stops basking in the sun, fully basking in the calm waters of its infinite past. For her, it was time to weigh the anchor again. 

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