Venice – Meeting the Challenge of the Lagoon

Timeless Patterns  (c)2006  Randy D. Bosch
Timeless Patterns (c)2006 Randy D. Bosch


The move from the Italian mainland into the Venetian Lagoon to escape the threat (or reality) of destruction by the Trans-Alpine invaders most certainly include the too normal panic-driven escape at the last-minute by “late responders”. 

However, many communities had substantial time between warning and event to allow a reasoned response, including planning and preparation for their move – particularly prior to the second and third waves!


Some migrant groups reaching Venice from specific towns or cities would certainly plan, attempt and succeed at maintaining their previously existing civic order, institutions and symbiotic relationships beginning immediately upon their investiture onto one or more islands in the Lagoon. 

The Arsenal of the Familiar

No longer separated by woods, farms, streams or marshes, although most on the mainland were by that time easily crossed on reasonable road networks, the small islands with no original interconnecting bridges recreated the mainland woods, fields, marsh and waterway separations between “communities” on a smaller scale.

Early dredging and bulwarking of island perimeters, familiar methods from mainland development and reclamation, stabilized and consolidated islands, increased their size and raised them a little bit further above mean and high tide lines. 

None of that effort required the invention of absolutely new technological innovations, but did compel and impel improvements under new circumstances.

The Value of Community
A confederation of about twelve lagoon communities of various sizes and island locations was recorded as being formed as early as 466, fairly quickly after the Hun-compelled move to the lagoon, to address these issues, resolve disputes, and reach consensus on how to live together in the Lagoon.

Their purpose would not only been to protect the “rights” of early-arriving communities, but to promote the common good.  A means had to be established to peacefully determine how:

  • To consolidate some communities, industries or land-uses;
  • To determine which islands were best to inhabit first and who would develop them;
  • To “place” later arrivals on newly reclaimed islands or by absorption into existing communities;
  • To share resources including transportation, materials water and food acquisition from the mainland along with new water resource development (pozzi!) and the establishment of new farms on the most fertile of the Lagoon islands;
  • To collaborate on defense and for the good of public order.

A Never-Ending Challenge

1010AD or 2010AD ?  (c)Randy D. Bosch

1010AD or 2010AD ? (c)Randy D. Bosch

Meeting the “challenge of the lagoon” did not end with the third successful wave if migration into the lagoon. 

Without a chronological (or even a repetitive-occurrence) ordering, a number of the major challenges that Venetians faced at the founding, during the “second wave” and “third wave”, in the intervening centuries, ever since, and even today, include:

  • Disease and Pestilence
  • Pollution and Waste Management 
  • River-Spawned Floods and Siltation
  • Railroads and Airports Automobiles
  • Cultural, Political and Religious Conflicts
  • Peer Pressure, Style and Vogue
  • War
  • Commerce and Industrialization
  • Motorized Boats
  • Cruise Ships and Tourists!
  • Storm Surge and Tides
  • Family and Personal Ambitions and Disputes
  • Newly Emerging Challenges and Opportunities from Outside the Lagoon
  • Earthquakes and Fire
  • Obsolescence, Deterioration and Reconstruction
  • Expansion of “Land-Locked” Institutions and Businesses
  • Overcrowding and Residential Flight

As each of us looks at Venice, whether from afar, through fleeting visits or in long dalliance, we gain insights into each of these aspects of the place and how it became what it is today.  Many of these challenges will be addressed in future posts in this series.

Practical Application?

Since human nature, will and physiological functions – individually and in groups – has remained unchanged over that long history, despite “technology”, that study affords the opportunity to develop tools for discernment and comprehension of the places that we each call “home”! 

Conversely, study and application to Venice of what we and others learn about our own time, culture and place provides insights – worthy of being shared – into Venice’s…

Not so strangely similar patterns.  


(This is Part V of the series, “Venice – The Intentional City” on RenaissanceRules!  Part One, the Introduction, was posted on November 8, 2010, and can be accessed via this link: .  Please stop in again to visit previous articles and discover upcoming segments. Enjoy the journey! Buon Viaggio!)



About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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One Response to Venice – Meeting the Challenge of the Lagoon

  1. randysrules says:

    Subscribers will note a formatting “glitch” in their directly-received posts. My apologies! This version seems to correct most of them, and the source is totally beyond my comprehension. Ah, technology!

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