Probably the best thing the Venice Biennale could do is leave Venice

Eleanor Jolliffe

The architectural profession needs to face up to some uncomfortable questions, says Eleanor Jolliffe

The resident population of Venice is now lower than it was in 1348 – after the city had been ravaged by the Black Death. Tourists on any given day outnumber residents by 140:1, and this ancient merchant city and cultural hub is now entirely dependent on its 30 million annual visitors. The fact that Venice is in peril is news to no one – but more and more voices are beginning to ask whether it is only rising sea levels that the city should be worrying about.

Art historian Salvatore Settis describes Venice today as a carcass of city with no purpose other than to service the cruise-ship industry. Richard Morrison writing in The Times earlier this year wrote that, “Time and again [Venice] has stood as a metaphor for human existence. That is why, around the world, millions of cultured people care passionately about Venice’s fate.” He later suggests that, “Unfortunately, it seems that the kindest thing we can do is also the cruellest: stay away, let the tourist trade wither and hope that the city reinvents itself as a living, breathing entity.”

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