Agreement aligns students to forum about pollution

by Nathan Whalen

The Golden Gopher and the Venetian Lion will get an opportunity to work together as the University and the Venice-based Forum for the Lagoon signed an agreement during a lecture at the Architecture Building on Thursday.
The agreement will allow architecture students to get more foreign exposure while providing the Forum for the Lagoon a base for operating in the United States.
The forum is a nonprofit group that seeks to preserve the wetlands and waterways that surround Venice, Italy.
The agreement with the University lasts for five years. Forum officials said the University was chosen because it has a department that combines architecture and landscape architecture, and because the Twin Cities is known for its many lakes and rivers.
The University became involved with the forum through study-abroad programs in which architecture graduate students do studio projects in Venice.
The most recent was last spring, when graduate students went to an island outside of Venice that used to house a hospital for tuberculosis. On the island, the students sought to discover an alternate master plan for the island, said Robert Sykes, a landscape architecture professor.
During the project, the students developed blueprints for a center on the island for researching the environmental and cultural factors that impact the lagoon surrounding Venice.
In coordination with the signing, Aldo Manos, the president of the Forum of the Lagoon and visiting University professor, presented a lecture that gave an overview about the situation of the lagoon.
“This is not a city of canals, but it is a city of islands,” Manos said. “Venice must rediscover its roots and traditions.”
Manos is concerned that Venice abandoned the principles that had historically benefitted the city: A dependence on a healthy lagoon and reliance on technological advances.
Venice abandoned these principles when the city began industrializing, even though they were forced to import many materials, he said.
A disadvantage that Venice has is that waterways are only several meters deep, and, in an effort to accommodate the large industrial- type vessels, a deep water trench was dug. This damaged the ecosystem as the city developed and pollution increased.
Because the water is so shallow, the large boats churn up old pollution that has settled at the bottom.
“Nobody is responsible for the lagoon as whole,” Manos said. He added that there are more than 1,000 elected officials that have some kind of authority over the lagoon.

Nathan Whalen covers facilities and construction and welcomes nwhal[email protected]. He can also be reached at (612)627-4070 x3237.