We are a week late with this posting and for those of you who are following us regularly we do apologise for the delay. However, this delay has permitted us to complete a video documenting an important phase of our meticulous restoration – the laying of the cement mats in the floating basins that will protect the ground floor areas of The Gritti Palace from the flooding caused by the acqua alta phenonenon.
Carrying out restorations in Venice is a challenging task with one of the primary difficulties being the transportation of equipment and materials to the building site. Materials and equipment must necessarily be transported by boat and manually both to-and-from the construction site, such as the concrete mixers and the large amounts of concrete required to complete the mats in the protective flood basins at The Gritti Palace. As you can imagine it was indeed a sight to see a total of nine concrete mixers operating from a barge moored off The Gritti Palace’s terrace on the Grand Canal.
Another difficulty lies in the fact that there are very few sites in Venice where cranes may be installed, and the use forklifts for the transport of raw materials is prohibited. Yet another difficulty is not being able to use large industrial machinery due to the fact that many of the historic palaces are unable to sustain the vibration that some of these pieces transmit.
Given the presence of water, it should be remembered that construction in Venice was and is particularly complex and burdensome, due to the foundations on which the buildings and palaces rest. A composite, multi-layered system had to be invented in order to render the muddy lagoon terrain sufficiently consistent to support the structures: the lowest layer, which is wholly immersed, is composed of closely spaced wooden piles that are driven into the terrain; a wooden panel rests upon this, followed by a base of Istrian stone, on which the final structure is laid. With the passing of time, the wooden piles undergo a process of mineralisation which consolidates the structure, leaving the piles still intact after centuries of submersion. The stone base also remains unaffected by the variable exposure caused by the tides.
The scarcity of construction materials in the lagoon, and the difficulty in recuperating them also means that the same elements are frequently re-utilised during restoration phases.
I hope you have enjoyed our video and this brief explanation of Venetian practices. Wishing you all a lovely weekend, please remember that this weekend Italy turns its clocks back an hour at 2am on Sunday morning when we switch to summer time.