Venice’s gondolas and the sustainability journey

Sustainability! Is there still a tourism provider who does not emphasize in the first three sentences of its “philosophy” how sustainable it is, wants to be or always has been? On closer inspection, however, it turns out that most of them make the same boot as always, just painted differently.

The term is marketing’s egg-laying pig, that’s for sure. And with that we come to Venice. This city is and has always been the epitome of beauty, but also greed and thus the opposite of sustainability. First Venice’s fleets exploited half the world and turned it into money, and then tourism was taken to extremes.


Electric motor, roof, hydropower generator: Starck’s concept is to explore new design and drive options for the nacelle.

(Photo: Philippe Starck)

How good that the designer Philippe Starck, who lives on Burano, has now taken on the gondola as part of a sustainability program at the University of Venice. No, not the cruise lines; not even the motorized water taxis; of the wooden, oar-operated boat. His design for the “Dream of Winter Gondola” envisages a structure made of “high-tech” materials (pressed bamboo), a solar-powered electric motor and a hydropower generator. All of this should not make the gondolier superfluous, but rather help him. In addition, there is a “gyroscope” that is supposed to avoid unnecessary swaying.

Instead of a boat made of oak wood powered by muscle power, a ship made of Chinese bamboo overloaded with technology? You can bet that Starck will win the university’s sustainability award with it!

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