When We are here Venice was founded in 2015, we declared “Venice is more than its monuments: positioned in the middle of a lagoon, the fate of Venice depends on the health of the coastal system”.
Our mission derives from this, and our activities are defined by evidence in the field of environmental sciences, aimed at bringing about real changes in terms of the protection and regeneration of the living city, its authenticity, its citizens, together with the fragile lagoon, inseparable from the rest of the complex system. By “living city” we mean much more than a visitor destination: a place with a resilient resident population and a sustainable model of governance that considers the quality of daily life, community services, within the context of the lagoon ecology.
In our first seven years as an NGO, we have progressed from acting as an almost invisible platform, dedicated to strengthening interconnections between the multiplicity of local organisations, decision takers and opinion leaders to becoming a multi- trans- interdisciplinary collettive of professionals with a constructive approach to the urgency facing Venice and the opportunities for positive change.
For almost two millennia, different levels of coexistence have manifested, alongside constant tensions, between human interventions and the natural dynamics of this intriguing territory. Since the 1960s, however, a different scale of problems have afflicted the city and surrounding lagoon at the social, administrative, economic and environmental levels. Our mission is to bring the lagoon and the natural capital it hosts back to the centre of all thinking leading to decisions concerning the future of Venice as a living city.
Today we operate a bit like a “think tank” promoting activism, research and collaboration. One of our three “action areas” is dedicated to analysis and better definitions for understanding the parameters that determine the transformations and trends affecting Venice now and in the future (“How was it for you” on the Biennale and “Whose city is it anyway" two reports that can be downloaded for free from the web).
We design and manage awareness raising campaigns, for example the bill posting series “Solo Transitori" (Temporary Residents Only) to highlight the problem of affordable housing and declining demography of Venice, with specific reference to the numerous abandoned pledges for public and social housing projects.
We collaborate with universities, businesses, cultural institutions and the public sector on projects and proposals based on rigorous investigations, to bring about real change in terms of measurable economic, social, physical and ecological indicators. Information sharing via talks, conferences, fieldwork and orientation activities for local as much as visiting academics, workers, students, etc. is of fundamental importance to our mission. Recently we were selected for a five year grant from the European Commission under the umbrella of the “New Green Deal”. The “WaterLANDS” project will demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of an innovative approach to the recreation of salt marsh in the lagoon, designed to optimise ecological functionality and the reuse of dredged sediments (when possible).
We know our name is rather clumsy, but there was no other way to affirm our conviction that it’s the Venetians who know best what needs to be done for their own wellbeing, that of the city and the lagoon, considering the local value systems, defending traditions and making all this culture and knowledge available to the world in the best possible ways.
My dear friend, Gloria Beggiato, the Venetian proprietor as well as the essence of the Metropole, represents exactly this. She is a precious reference point for our vision of Venice. She has often helped me interpret various situations with her intelligence, foresight, entrepreneurial experience, generosity and consolidated capacity to embrace complexity, as well as her kindness and marvellous, honest judgement.
Considering her values, and those which she incorporates in her management of the Metropole and the world around her, I’ll conclude with another motto of our association, coined by our first supporter the stylist Vivienne Westwood: “Venice for the Venetians, Venice for the world”. The implication of these words is that international support is necessary to provide the extra energy, resonance and resources to support the regeneration of Venice, beginning with revitalising the local population, and showing how positive changes are possible to better reconcile economy and environment via technological innovations and new organisational approaches. Proven feasibility in Venice can then be scaled up elsewhere, in the many other places with similar issues, in line with our larger ambition to ensure that all this work has global resonance.
Photo 1 @Daniele Resi
Photo 2-3 @Eleonora Sovrani
Photo Blogger @Fondazione Masi