Quarto Ponte sul Canal Grande
by Santiago Calatrava



Venice Architecture Biennale: here are some snaps of Quarto Ponte sul Canal Grande (Fourth Bridge on the Grand Canal) by architect Santiago Calatrava, which opened in Venice yesterday.


The bridge links the train station to Piazzale Roma.






Posted on Saturday September 13th 2008 at 2:41 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • M!

    How can a person in a wheelchair or a mother with a baby buggy cross it?


    • Francesco

      I agree with your sentiment. I’m an architect and loved Calatrava’s work as an architecture student. I was elated & impressed when the City of Calgary, Canada, my present home town, had him design a foot bridge over the Bow River. Beautiful & very over budget; the special steel welding could only be done in Europe.

      To overlook the need for wheelchair and stroller (trolly) accessibility, is the fault of everyone concerned; the client (City of Venice – building code, plan approvals, and the city’s citizens), the architect and the builder. All know better than to exclude the possibility of wheel chair and stroller access even though Venice is not a wheelchair friendly city, as is most of Italy. Experience tells me that governments can and do bypass building codes to their benefit, but won’t grant the same to it’s citizens. This client has final say in the end.

      Though the bridge’s slope is excessive for easy independent wheelchair access, a texture stone surface could have been included without detracting from the design or beauty of the bridge. I doubt people would not help someone in a wheel chair cross this beautiful bridge. Simple and yet not permitted to happen in a world renowned city. Such is life. :-)

  • andi

    very gaudi

  • gaque

    this is wonderful, i really think the texture and colors of steel are great

  • White Paper

    I welcome a mature, wise, less freaky than usual Calatrava, and the structure is undoubtedly elegant and pertinent with the context. I just can’t see any good reason behind the deep blood color of the steel frame…..quite revolting and too reminiscent of some Aldo Rossi-ish postmoderism… . And As I praise the elegance and beautiful simplicity of the design, I still to understand how they managed to bust the budget so horrendously….All in all looks a good bridge to cross and to experience….

  • What

    Spectacularly Simple!

  • critical cow

    A stunning addition to the built environment of venice.

    The design resonates with history and modernity, beautiful.

  • eduardo

    just beautiful
    so harmonic

  • Michael

    Beautiful bridge for people who are not cyclists, wheelchair bound, old, seeing impaired or pulling wheeled luggage.
    4th image down says it all. That couple is clearly discussing how to cross with their suitcases.

    • belfrancesco

      Great observation, and good point. :-)

  • jon

    No entiendo como puede la gente de Argentina quejarse de lago tan bonito y tan artistico como es la arquitectura y que no le dieran una buena inauguración al puente.

  • jedi

    is it really that steep to need treads?!?!

  • seth

    so beautiful!

  • looks like a skeleton of somesort


    I see a couple with suitcases in photo #4. If this beautiful bridge had a small ramp, it would have been a perfect design. The same problem with handicapped. I wonder how this has been approved without those standard?

  • Dan

    @ Jon: La inauguración del Puente de la Mujer en Argentina fue el 20 de diciembre de 2001. ¿Si sabes lo que pasó ese día, verdad? Nadie iba a estar en la inaguración de ese puente.

  • matt

    don’t point stupid things, there’s no way for a wheelchair to have a trip in Venice, only a few bridges have small elevators for wheelchairs…

    anyway Venice has been waiting for this bridge a looooong time whereas it doesn’t really link Piazzale Roma to the train station but to the casino in front of Piazzale Roma

  • shima

    such a white shark on the blue water but
    M! is true. i suggest they use the Handrail .

  • ivan

    Calatrava is not interested in Design or Architecture. He just plays his own art. His obsessioned by jurassic era. He needs help..

  • j

    bicycles (except for small children) are prohibited in venice. as for wheelchair bound people, you don’t really see them there either. venice wasn’t exactly built with disabilities in mind.

  • Tyler.

    Beautyful and simple but very useless for cyclists and wheelchairs.

  • Michael


    And we as designers should further promote more designs to exclude the handicapped? Yeah, you never see wheelchairs, because no one is doing anything about design to help them. Architects should be designing for the future, so why not start someplace.

    With an attitude like that, there will never be some sort of fairness or progress for humanity. Pray that you never become impaired and have to rely on outdated infrastructure to get around.

    • funmbi

      Calatrava’s not a qualified architect, he is actually an engineer.

  • Theo

    Let’s face it. Calatrava doesn’t know about details..
    Let’s face it.
    If we had to build a city like Venice today (21st Century), with all its beauty and poetry, some people would just argue about it’s cost in term of carbon footprint, unpraticality for wheelchairs, and just cost in itself when so many people are starving to death in the world….
    Welcome to a better (worse) world where poetry has the cost of a narrow mind. Welcome to a Politically Correct World Wide Web.

  • atomant

    just because the whole of venice is unfriendly to disabled doesnt mean you have to be too!!

  • M!

    i agree with you, atomant!!!

  • Matty D

    so much banter about accessibility and political correctness! hate to break it to you, but a large majority of european buildings don’t heed any form of accessibility requirements. not to mention, Venice is difficult enough to travel by foot, (I lived there for four months) let alone even think about a wheelchair. The majesty of the city is found in its classical roots and very little could be done to make even the most often visited parts of the city, like San Marco, easily accessible for wheel chairs. may God bless the handicapped, but most of Europe doesn’t seen too concerned…

  • nev

    there’s no way to build a bridge in this place without a stairs. The soft and morphic line of calatravas bridge needs only few more steps than usual.
    How do you think – is there any posibillity of no-stairs-bridge over the navigable canal and the lack od place? “Wheelfriendly” architecture sometimes can’t exist in a center of historical city

  • Lite

    Michael said it all …

    Well, it’s reassuring to find out that Matt and J are going to fade into their narrow-mindedness.
    The bridge is beautiful but it clearly needs a ramp. But ok, everyone knows Calatrava is too selfish to put people’s interest above his universal genius.

  • nique

    note the people carrying bags in the first and fourth picture. what’s a nice bridge if its not nice to people? not architecture..

  • Lski

    perfect 8)

  • roberta

    there’ll be an ovovia for the wheelchair, it’s going to be built – i don’t know how do you say in english, it’s an egg-like chairlift…actually every place should be accessible to the wheelchairs, but actually in venice no place is accessible through a wheelchair – unless you put the wheelchair in a boat and go around by boat; there are more than 400 bridges with stairs only

  • mik

    the wheelchair user should just use canoes and paddle around town!

  • Matty D

    The naivety of these responses kill me! Of course design should be used as a tool to make the world accessible everyone, but at a certain point practicality needs to take precedence! What would a handicapped individual do once he traversed Calatrava’s bridge and then could not go over a single other bridge in Venice! Think about it! Anyone who has ever visited Venice knows that you cross a bridge about every 5 minutes of walking. Re-engineering an ancient sity to accomodate wheel chairs and suitcases is far beyond practical. For that matter, I’m glad the Italian government is investing their resources in preventing Venice from being swallowed by the sea as opposed to putting in ramps.

  • roberta

    unfortunately, the Italian government (nor the Venice municipality at all) is investing any money in preventing Venice from being swallowed.
    They chat and chat and don’t get any result, as usual in Italy. But anyway, it doesn’t change the situation. Venice is not a city for wheelchairs, as most of the city built in IX century a.C.
    And the Calatrava bridge is not one of his best.

  • I saw it in venice a couple of weeks ago, and its refreshingly straightforward…… Great!

  • Pat

    Calatrava shows great arrogance in building a beautiful bridge which cannot be used by all.Is he so sure he won´t ever be in a wheelchair ?

  • quik

    Do I really need to convince someone that it was quite tiredning to pull him with the wheelchair up the stairs on almost every single bridge? I can reassure that it would be definetly better to have AT LEAST one more bridge with a ramp. I am not trying to say you have to bulldozer all the bridges and subsitute with flat ones, but come on, if you’re building a new one!!
    Do you really believe that handicapped persons dont have right to go to Venice? (and dont forget their friends)
    in thet case you have to be quite convinced that nothing ever happens to you.. good luck!

  • Wow, as a former non-wheelchair user who has visited Venice, I salute its’ beauty. As someone who is now a wheelchair user, I burn with indignation at the prejudice shown to the mobility impaired by so many of those who have commented here.

    Not many wheelchairs users would expect an old city to be pulled apart in attempting to give access to the mobility impaired but we would expect evolution towards access to be evident – especially where significant public money is being spent. There is little enjoyment, to my mind, in modern design that is not inclusive. Incorporating access should surely be a presumption for great design in a world where we now cherish equality.

    To say that it is OK to exercise prejudice because it has been OK in previous times or because it is redundant in this situation is no excuse. We evolve do we not..in attitude and design? Maybe some of us do not!

  • Carliz

    123….yyyy……FEO CON COJONES!!!!!
    Norman Foster hubiera sido la elección acertada. Integra infinitamente mejor en entornos clásicos.

  • K Chaloner

    As the wife of an adventurous, design-loving — and wheelchair-bound — world traveller, I like the bridge, and accept that it might not be crossed by the two of us together BUT wish that the architecture and design world at large could take accessibilty more into account when creating the spaces of the future, making ‘small steps for mankind’ (such as Calatrava’s newest creation) into giant strides instead!

  • blossom

    i love its slim construction, shape like boneless tunna meat, its wonderful light lines, its interplay with surroundings, but !! it’s absolutely barrier !!
    I had a problem with my roller baggage, so what about handicappeds?
    (student of architecture)

  • Nuno Rafael Relvão


    I am a master of architecture student and I was in Venice yesterday. I crossed the bridge and even for me, a 25 year old healthy and fit man, the steps were amazingly unconfortable.

    The ultimate problem with this bridge to me is that it could very simply have been done without steps: if you pay attention to the lower part of it you can see that the skeleton actually has a toll of maybe two to three meters in the heightness of the bridge, so if its aim were to create the tray of the bridge as lower as he could the bridge could almos seem horizontal.

    What Calatrava obviously did was to selfishly – as somebody said here before – put his design before the inhabitants period

    And I agree with the guy that said that if you have this then you neither have architecture nor design. It is an action of the same degree as to make all the bridges in Venice flat and stop the boats from navigating in the canals.

    And I saw an old man in the middle of Venice in a wheelchair being help to cross the bridges only with the assistance of his, also old, wife. Should they not have one less bridge to cross as an obstacle? And what about people who want to go to the train station?

    A healthy person may spend a nice time in Venice using all the bridges but to go to the train station with the luggage at the end of their staying they will have one more BIG bridge to cross.

    Either in wheelchair or not it would be much simpler without the steps, and like I said before, it could have been easily done.

  • mickeycz

    Most of the bridges in Venice have steps on them, and Ponte Scalzi certainly has a lot of steps. One sound you get used to at all hours is the sound of wheeled luggage on the calle, then being pulled one step at a time up and over the bridges. Likewise strollers are a struggle for travellers to get across bridges. On one of the islands there was a lift over for a wheelchair. I assume it was needed be a resident nearby and the accommodation was made.

    I know it is a struggle to travel with handicaps, (and I include very small clueless children here) but the bridges cannot be flattened with the boat traffic there. There are also very few buildings with an elevator in Venice, so we count the steps to the door we go to. By law, and due to acqua alta, the ground floor cannot be inhabited in Venice.

    My sister in law wanted to see the apartment where she grew up and barely recognized it as the two rios there are no more. The city filled in and paved them over.

    Venice also has “streets” that would be too narrow for a wheelchair.

    I love Venice. If I became handicapped, though, I would have to think very hard about travel to it

  • Andrew Irvine

    If there is to be a wheelchair lift then the disabled access is better; the steps are a VERY gentle introduction to the bridges of Venice, and wheelchair access is very difficult in the rest of the City; this may alter in the future, and a through-route devised, failing this the solution is pay even more for your holiday in Venice and engage a Porter at the station who will certainly be capable of getting a wheelchair over all of the bridges -they also transport luggage if you cannot manage that either. Bear in mind that, disabled or not, a holiday in Venice WILL be expensive, but the Vaporetti are more accessible than most City road busses and the Staff are almost always extremely helpful.

  • mahrous

    it looks like a fish skeleton and the finishing is really great

  • Guillermo Lumbreras

    I´ve been there in Venice twice this year, and even you would say that the bridge looks great, magnificent or bla bla bla, it´s just a useless beatiful structure.

    It´s very difficult to cross it if you have your luggage with you (and most people is coming from the station, so they are all carrying their big bags).There is no ramp, no elevator, no nothing… not even mention disabled (wheelchair) people!

    Second point is that when you are about to cross it, there is a big announcement which says that if you are carrying something (bags, luggage, whatever) which exceed more than (i guess it says 30kg) then you cannot cross by that bridge. Which for my way to see things, the structure is not really good enough or it was just made for slim, able (that both of your legs are just perfect) and without carying anything… stupid thing!!!

    Third point. I don´t understand why there are these glass steps if you cannot see anything under the bridge, it just made it more expensive that what it was already.

  • I have just come across the blog so a bit late commenting this post. I visited during the 08 Biennale which coincided with our site visit to the Giudecca. We left venice via the coach station as opposed to our arrival by water taxi. My memory of leaving this stunning place was the awkward walk over the bridge, not just because of all my luggage but the rhythm of the stairs as you journey over them is so awful and uncomfortable to walk up, this small detail seams to me as important as overall aesthetic of the structure.