Europa Nostra Contributes to Developing Guidelines for Shaping the ‘Futures of Venice’

Changing the narrative of Venice, both internally and externally, is imperative, moving from the story of a city at risk to one that is understood as an urban laboratory capable of identifying scalable and replicable initiatives tied together by sustainability. This is the starting point for the ‘Futures of Venice’, a project created by the Association of the International Private Committees for the Safeguarding of Venice with the goal of building a platform of actionable and useful ideas for creating sustainable scenarios for the future Venice putting culture at the centre.

Europa Nostra actively contributed to a series of events held from 18 – 22 March, organised by the International Private Committees, aimed at delineating guidelines for the ‘Futures of Venice’. Represented by Carla Toffolo, Programme Manager of the European Heritage Hub, Europa Nostra collaborated with approximately 25 international experts, including representatives from civil society, cultural institutions, universities, and scientific research institutes. Notable attendees included Simone Venturini, Councillor of the Municipality of Venice with Delegation to Residency Policies, Economic Development, and Tourism; Tiziana Lippiello, Rector of the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice; Michele Bugliesi, President of the Fondazione di Venezia; Alessandro Costa, Director General of the Venice Sustainability Foundation; and Andrea Rinaldo, President of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere

The meetings were conducted by two of the leading international experts in urban transformation: Gail Lord, President of Lord Culture, who has participated in over 500 international projects worldwide, and Daniel Silver, Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, both representatives of The School of Cities, a research institute at the University of Toronto, assisted in the data analysis by Javier Jiménez, Professor at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Director of Lord Culture for Europe.

The ‘Futures for Venice’ project, initiated within the International Private Committees, focuses on leveraging Venice’s cultural heritage and youth engagement to address key challenges such as population retention, economic diversification, environmental sustainability, artisanal skills, digitalisation and tourism management. This approach is very much similar to that adopted within the European Heritage Hub, an EU-funded pilot project lead by Europa Nostra, which places the green, digital and social transformation of our society at the core of its activities.

A strong shared vision has emerged of the most relevant challenges for Venice, which can be summarised as: retaining and growing the population, diversifying the economy, environmental sustainability, cost of living, tourism management. But all interlocutors also highlighted Venice’s great strengths: its cultural heritage, its history, art, beauty, the quality of life in a city that is traversed on foot – a precursor of the 15-minute city, a city on the water with very dynamic communities“, stated Gail Lord.

Carla Toffolo added: “Venice stands as the oldest city of the future, a living laboratory where we can construct our path forward on the foundation of our shared cultural heritage. Its rich diversity mirrors not only its own narrative but also encapsulates the essence of Europe within its lagoon. Through its history, its role as a cultural melting pot, and the collective contributions of various cultures, Venice holds the promise of a future as bright as its remarkable past

Carla Toffolo also referenced the statement Europa Nostra issued in September on the occasion of the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh: “It is an equally shared opinion that, despite significant progress, Venice is still in danger. The solutions at this moment of new opportunities must shift the focus from stones to people.” Despite the continuous intrinsic fragility of Venice, progresses in its safeguarding have been made. Carla Toffolo highlighted the role that the New European Bauhaus could play as a driver to include European values and know-how in procedures adopted in town.

The Association of the International Private Committees is one of Europa Nostra’s historical members. Such partnership was strengthened on the occasion the European Heritage Summit 2021, which featured a dedicated session on ‘Saving Endangered Venice & its Lagoon: How to Build Back Better?’. Through collaborative efforts and shared visions, these organisations are poised to address the challenges facing Venice and ensure its continued vitality for generations to come.