Sustainable Europe 2022: Urban Form of Prague, Czech Republic

By Griffin Major

On the last day of the program, we took the morning train from Ostrava to Prague. We spent the afternoon seeing as much of the city as possible. Our hotel was near the center of the city, so we first passed the National Museum. It has many exhibits focusing on the Czech Republic’s biological, natural, and national history. In front of the National Museum is Wenceslas Square, featuring a spectacular statue of Saint Wenceslas. The square is of great historical importance because of the massive protests that took place there in 1989 as part of the Velvet Revolution, which was a non-violent demonstration against the Communist regime.

Wenceslas Square in Prague with National Museum in the background

We walked to Old Town Square, which has the famous Astrological Clock, the old town hall, two beautiful churches, and a monument to Jan Hus. At the top of every hour people gather in the square to watch the clock chime. An old story goes that back in 1490, when the government contracted an artisan to construct the clock tower, they were worried he would replicate the work elsewhere. To prevent this, they decided to have a hitman blind him. I feel like they could’ve asked him nicely instead. It is unclear, however, that this is story is actually true.

Clock tower in Prague’s Old Town Square

Prague has a strong Jewish culture imprinted into its urban form with various synagogues and a famous cemetery close to the city center, because of the high population they had in the past. Very sadly, this population was deeply affected by the holocaust. We passed the oldest active synagogue in the world, which was built in 1270. Down the street was an above ground cemetery, and it had 10-20 foot high walls because they would fill the dirt over the bodies.

We then walked across the Charles Bridge, which connects to the other side of the river and was named after Charles IV, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. He made Prague his capital, and he founded Charles University, one of the oldest universities in Europe. From the bridge and the river, you can clearly see the Prague Castle at the top of the hill, which is now the seat of the Czech president. After we walked back across the bridge, we made our way through various neighborhoods to our last group dinner.

For dinner we went to a traditional Czech restaurant, where I had venison, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and a beer, which is a Czech staple. The dinner was bittersweet because it was the last night of a trip where we made new friends and great memories together as a big band of college kids adventuring across Europe and learning a great deal along the way. I wish I could go again and relive the best month of my life!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: Roma Rights and Self-Empowerment

By Lora Callahan

Music room at Vzájemné soužití’s center

After our morning at the steel mill, we headed off to visit Vzájemné soužití (Life Together), a Czech Roma NGO working in the city of Ostrava. Heavy storms were approaching as we entered the center, so we all huddled around a large table in one of the many rooms of the center to hear more about Roma people and the mission of the NGO from its workers. One of the missions of Life Together is to strengthen cooperation between the marginalized Roma and the majority Czech population, with the intention of improving the lives of the Roma people.

The Roma people are an ethnic minority group across Europe that are typically marginalized by the majority populations of the countries they reside in. Virginally since arriving in Europe hundreds of years ago, Roma have been outcast due to their different culture, clothing, and traditionally nomadic lifestyles. The Roma were persecuted and murdered before and during World War II by the Nazis, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Roma. Today, there are between 10 and 12 million Roma in Europe, and Roma make up between 2-3% of the Czech population.

The work of Life Together began in 1997 in the aftermath of floods that devastated the Hrušov neighborhood of Ostrava. The flood displaced Roma families, forcing them to relocate to the neighborhood where Life Together’s center is currently located. A team of volunteers helped to provide aid to the displaced families and to ease the growing hostility between the new and old Roma residents. I found it very interesting that there could be hostility and conflict between members of the same minority group; but, as we continued to hear from our speakers I began to understand just how many different clans of Roma there are, each with its own identity.

art room at Vzájemné soužití’s center

We learned that Life Together was formally established in 1998, expanding its efforts to provide a variety of social services, particularly for Roma children. One of the primary challenges that Roma children face is in obtaining an education. In the Czech Republic, school assignments are based on where families live. This means that Roma neighborhoods struggle to obtain good teachers for their schools. Life Together provides a preschool/daycare, after school programs, field trips, tutoring, and served as a space for online learning during Covid. They have many spaces in the center for children to explore their interests, including a music room, art room, and plenty of common space. We were able to hear from two of the students that have attended the center since they were young children. This was an incredible opportunity to hear first-hand how Life Together has made an impact on the lives of these children. The workers were clearly proud of the boys, as they recounted how they have grown in their soccer skills, playing for the center’s league and earning many trophies.

After leaving the community center, the boys brought us to a nearby village, called the Coexistence Village, that is an ethnically integrated community, bringing together both Roma and non-Roma. I thought that this was a very creative approach to not only provide adequate, affordable housing but to also provide an outlet for community members to overcome prejudictice. Overall, I found it insightful to hear more about the history of Roma, the work of Life Together, and about the Coexistence Village.

Coexistence Village
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: Reducing Pollution in Heavy Industry – A Visit to Liberty Steel Ostrava

By Caroline Lohr

The sun and heat were very strong on June 20th as we took the trolly to the Liberty Steel Mill complex in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Nová Huť (or ‘new mill’ in English) originally commenced production in 1948 under state ownership and control. Since liberalization and privatization in the early 1990s, it has gone through various owners, and is now in multinational conglomerate Liberty’s hands. Liberty Ostrava is the largest steelmaker in the Czech Republic.

We had a presentation from the Director of Environment for Liberty Ostrava. He spoke about the responsibilities the firm has as a trusted user of the air, land, and water. Along with sharing their membership of the GFG Alliance, a global entity composed of individual and independent business with a focus on environmental sustainability through metal manufacturing and engineering: “We want to produce high quality steel with environmental responsibility”. He discussed the membership of the GFG and the principles for Liberty as a whole. All departments of the plant have environmental strategies to meet the major goals set in place for the whole company.

One way that the actual manufacturing is more environmentally conscious is by increasing the use of scrap metals and less on the production of new steel. We later visited what he was talking about in describing what ‘scrap’ is; basically it is old metals that are pushed together into compressed bundles, which will are reused by melting them down. Relying on scrap advances Liberty’s goal of wanting to be the leader of high quality, green steel. These scraps come from both external sources, purchased from a company, or internal, where they collect and reuse their own scraps. Around 75% of scrap comes from construction sites (i.e., buildings that were torn down).

We had three parts of a bus walking tour:

The first location was at ‘coking ovens’, which turn coal into energy-dense coke for use in blast furnaces when making steel. It was noted that different types of coal have different characteristics and thus serve different roles. While air pollution does result from the coking process, the firm is collecting the vast majority of emissions through an extensive multi-stage filtration system. The mass amount of steam in the picture below, which is coming from the coke plant, is not significantly damaging to the environment, as it is mostly steam (from water used to cool the coke as it comes out of a chamber).

The second stop on the tour was at their largest environmental investment. On the left side, there is a silver building that has an electrostatic filter that uses electricity as a form of ‘cleaning’, removing particles from the air. The left building/tower and right tower work hand in hand in circulating and cleaning air. Liberty prides themselves on the use of a very fine mesh filter that is placed vertically along this pollution tower. The filter acts as a net and catches the particles in the air, thus allowing the air that is put out to be cleaner than if the filter was not there. It’s expensive and impressive that they have dedicated so much to being environmentally conscious. The air quality today is significantly better than it was historically.

The last part of the tour was to Liberty’s absolutely massive rolling mill, which is a ~1 km long building that produces steel cables, rebar, and other products. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the building, but it was very interesting. We saw neon orange steel bars glide through the machines being extruded longer and longer. They were sprayed with water (or ‘quenched’) as they passed down the line. At the beginning of the process, we saw a large fat piece of steel and by the end of it, it was a small rod that was no longer orange but silver.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: The Phoenix of Ostrava – From Heavy Industry to Historical Preservation

By Emily Fishman

On June 19, we arrived in Ostrava, Czech Republic after a very late night of traveling. The first stop of the day was a tour of Dolni Vitkovice, which served as a coal mining and raw steel production complex between the years 1828 and 1998. The site is of great historical significance for various reasons, including its emergence as one of the first places of industrialization in Europe pre industrial revolution. Rudolf I. of Bohemia, the archbishop of Olomouc, ordered the plant to be established in Vítkovice. It ultimately included facilities for three consecutive processes: a coal mine, a coke plant, and a blast furnace operation. A fun fact about Dolni Vitkovice is that half of the rivets used in the construction of the Eiffel Tower were produced there.

Dolní Vítkovice site in Ostrava, Czech Republic
A view from the ‘Bolt Tower’ at Dolni Vitkovice

The once-dominant industrial plant has evolved into a distinctive educational, cultural, and social hub with influence beyond national boundaries. The idea of restoring the structure and keeping it as a technical landmark for future generations predominated the idea of its demolition. The main goal of the project was to connect science to the future in the creation of an accessible cultural monument for educational and social purposes. We even got to see the inside of one of the blast furnaces that had been revitalized for accessibility to the public.

Inside a retired blast furnace at Dolni Vitkovice

After our tour, we took a tram to lunch. The tramway network in Ostrava is the third-largest in the Czech Republic. Our next stop of the day was a walking tour with two Ostrava University professors. One thing they noted was that Ostrava used to be a small city until the coal mining industry came about. Therefore, this blossoming industry called for an influx of people in a very short period of time. This caused an issue with housing and workers’ colonies were created. They were establishments developed in order to house migrant families, which often came off of farms, undertaking work in the factories. Nowadays, many of these houses are abandoned and left to be torn down and replaced with more modern structures. Unfortunately, there are currently no protections for these historical structures.

Historical worker housing in Ostrava, Czech Republic

Our tour also led us to a hike up a mountain where around 50 slag heaps are located. These are areas of refuse from the industrial sites that again, have no protection. Ecological succession has occurred here in which vegetation regrew in the area after the factories shut down. In some areas, the mining waste is still continuing to burn and remains thermally active. One can actually feel the heat coming out of it if you put your hand close enough.

Smoldering slag heap in Ostrava

Both of these tours have led me to a greater understanding of how some unsustainable areas like steel production plants can find new, more sustainable lives post-use. For example, as places for education to teach future generations what impacts these harmful industries can have and to learn from their consequences.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: Politics of Central & Eastern Europe

By Michelle Millirons

After meeting with Martina Méhes, the managing and policy director of EnergiaKlub and grabbing lunch, we moved to the ELTE University Campus, which is the largest university in Hungary. It focuses largely on the arts and sciences. We met with Dr. Frank Zsigo, a political scientist, to discuss Hungarian politics and the politics of the wider region.

ELTE University in Budapest, Hungary

Dr. Zsigo drew many parallels between what is happening politically in Hungary and what could potentially happen in the United States. The current population in Hungary is around 10 million, but it is steadily declining. This has created negative sentiments among many. Women are often shamed for not having enough children to maintain the population numbers. Meanwhile, Hungary has maintained an anti-migration policy, which is contradictory to their desire for a growing population.

Hungary has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1999. As a previous member of the Warsaw Pact, they were desperate to join NATO after the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence went through a major collapse and was no longer seen as a major world power. Hungary did not have the money available to modernize their military themselves, and so they needed the help from NATO.

Hungary just elected their very first female head of state (President), however the president has relatively little power. The country functions as a parliamentary democracy. They have a total of six official parties within their parliament, but only one dominant party. This party is called Fidesz or the “Alliance of Young Democrats”.

Hungary has not always functioned as a democracy. They were a communist nation with no free market, but a planned economy. There were also no free and fair elections because there was only one party, the communist party. There was no freedom of expression, and political prisoners and executions were not uncommon. In 1956 there was a revolution led by Hungarian youth. This was only possible after Russian turmoil and the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953.

Following the revolution in 1956, the regime went from extremely oppressive to relatively more free, especially compared to other Warsaw Pact members. The regime invited unspoken compromise between the people and the Communist Party. If the people did not revolt against the party, the party was willing to improve freedoms and the overall standard of living in Hungary. This gave the party much more legitimacy until 1973. In 1973 the price of oil skyrocketed. Hungary quickly began running out of the money needed to support a high quality of life for their citizens. This financial crisis led to the fermentation of opposition, which ultimately stood up and demanded that the red army leave Hungary.

By the 1990s, Hungary was the freest it had ever been. However, with freedom of speech comes the freedom to be hateful. Minorities in Hungary began to be attacked and mistreated more than before, and unfortunately Hungary still struggles with racism today, especially against the Roma population. The afternoon with Dr. Zsigo was extremely informative. By taking what we have learned about politics in Europe, we can apply lessons to the situation in the United States and avoid repetition of the same mistakes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: Environmental Policy and the Role of Civil Society in Hungary

By Cameron Hadley

Our day started with a short walk through the city of Budapest on our way to our first meeting of the day. During the walk, we got to admire more of the architecture and design of the Hungarian capital. We eventually made it to the headquarters of EnergiaKlub, which is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that focuses on renewable energy and climate issues within Hungary. The organization has 11 full time employees who work on consulting and policy projects with government agencies, businesses, schools, and universities.

We gathered in the conference room to meet with Martina Mehes, EnergiaKlub’s director. Martina has considerable experience in the energy field. Through our discussion, we gained valuable insights into how NGOs operate in Hungary. EnergiaKlub operates using support from various sources, including the European Union (EU). We can contrast this to NGOs in the United States, which are much more reliant on donations from individuals than government.

Martina identified three types of environmental NGOs that are present in Hungary: There are “deep green” organizations that are seen as radical, pro-government NGOS that produce information supporting their agendas, and there are independent organizations such as Energiaklub. Due to its independent nature, EnergiaKlub does not receive any support from the Hungarian government, but they do work with government officials and ministers in advisory roles. One of the advantages that Martina brought up about working at an NGO was the freedom that they have to pursue projects that they feel are most important. One such project that she told us about was RenoPont. This is an online platform that allows people to learn more about renovating their homes to be more energy efficient. RenoPont is a part of a larger project called RenoHUb, which EnergiaKlub has played a major role in implementing.

Our discussion led us to a broader conversation about energy in Hungary. The country heavily relies on Russia for oil and natural gas, importing about 60% and 90% of its supplies respectively. As a result of supply challenges stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ministers in Hungary have begun looking at wind power to reduce dependency. Historically, wind power has been unpopular in Hungary due to public misconceptions about negative health effects and dangers posed to wildlife. Nuclear power is at an interesting point in Hungary. The country currently has one plant in operation and has a contract with the Russian-based company Rosatom to build two more. Due to construction license difficulties, among other factors, the project has been significantly delayed. The final key area of discussion was around the pros and cons of alternative energy sources to fossil fuels. Nuclear energy provides a steady supply of energy, but the waste is very difficult to manage, and Hungary has no good geological storage locations. Solar panels provide variable energy levels and are built using materials from mining operations in other countries that may not be the most sustainable. I think many of us gained a better understanding that there is no “holy grail’ of energy sources as Martina put it. Its not so much a matter of good or bad, but one of better or worse given the context of the situation.

Overall, it was interesting to see how views and attitudes towards energy in Hungary differ from those in the United States. Our meeting with Martina and EnergiaKlub had us thinking a lot more about the complexity of energy systems and how NGOs play a role in shaping them.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: Budapest’s Urban Form

By Emma Sahlgren

On June 16, our study abroad group arrived in Budapest, Hungary from Vienna, Austria via a FlixBus. This was our first time taking a bus rather than a train between cities, exposing us to yet another mode of transportation.

Once we were in the city we took a tram to our hotel. Budapest, a city of around 1.7 million people, has found ways to maintain transportation connectivity and is advancing green infrastructure to remedy environmental issues. As we walked to our hotel, we stopped in a beautiful city square in front of the main Basilica.We learned that this square, along with others throughout the city center, was transformed from a parking lot into a walkable, beautiful place. This was very interesting and displayed how an area can be transformed into a bustling center with many restaurants and very good gelato.

Beautiful square in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary

There are many different ways to get around Budapest, including: walking and cycling infrastructure; various modes of public transport including trams, subways, buses, boats, and trolley buses; and private automobiles. A trolley bus is an electric bus that is connected to trolley wires but without tracks. These kinds of trolley buses are not super common, but are a good environmentally friendly alternative for cities.

Budapest’s public transport also has many other impressive features, like one of the longest running trams in the world, and autonomous vehicles like specific subway lines with no drivers. The city also has one of the oldest subway systems in the world, which is reflected in the historical design of many of its oldest stops. As a group we passed through a few of these stations and were able to compare old to new and see the subway’s evolution.

When it comes to car infrastructure, one of the most well known intersections is the Octagon where the main “ring road” intersects with Andrassy Boulevard, a major prominade. The ring road was originally conceived as a canal, which would have had water from the Danube river instead of a road. However that vision never came to fruition. During our tour, we were able to see that the ring road serves as a sort of central point in the city and its navigation of traffic. The ring road includes pedestrian walkways and bike lanes.

The Octagon intersection in Budapest

Budapest has historically had poor air quality, but as a city, it has implemented environmental policies to address these issues. For example, one of these policies is the promotion of electric cars. In Budapest, cars with green license plates are electric cars. This plate allows these cars to have certain benefits like parking in certain high value places. An example of this that we saw is electric vehicle parking right off of the ring road. Another policy has been to increase charging infrastructure for electric cars. These policies incentivize the use of electric cars and in turn also improve air quality in the city.

If you are visiting Budapest and enjoy biking, the city has incorporated biking infrastructure like bike racks and bike lanes on the sidewalks and main roads. While Budapest is a busy city with a lot of car movement, where there were not bike lanes on the main road, there were paths on the sidewalk with one side designated for pedestrians and another designated for bikes. It seems Budapest is a very multi-modal city with many options for residents and visitors to move around the city. I thoroughly enjoyed Budapest and the things we learned about the city during our tour with Dr. Schenk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: Vienna, Austria

By Alec Boron

After enjoying our time in Venice, our day in Vienna started with waking up on the night train. With three people to a room, we converted our triple bunk bed into seats and got our breakfast delivered to us. Bags packed and fully fed, the group was ready to tackle the day. Immediately after getting off the train, I could see the resemblance to Germany, which was comforting as we spent our first week in Freiburg. We quickly went to our hotel, dropped off our bags, and headed to our first activity of the day: visiting the massive brownfield redevelopment of Seestadt on the edge of Vienna.

Walking through the Seestadt urban redevelopment in Vienna, Austria

Seestadt was only a short subway trip away, and some of it was above ground, affording us opportunities to get a sense of Vienna’s various urban forms. As we arrived in Seestadt, we already got a sense of the modern style and unique architecture of the buildings out the window.

Our tour guide, Marvin Mitterwallner, made his introductions and we were off! Seestadt is a massive urban development project on the edge of the city. The goal is to build a smart and sustainable, multi-use neighborhood that is inclusive to any and all groups of people. The project is based upon three ‘pillars’ according to Marvin: Urban design, cleanliness, and mobility.

A model of plans for Seestadt

Urban design refers to how they are designing the city and buildings to create a happy and productive community. In the development’s center, the first floors of buildings are devoted to active areas such as retail shops and restaurants. Less active spaces like doctors offices, work offices, and apartments are put on higher floors. This way there is a mixed use of the land, which prevents separately zoned areas which in turn reduces the amount of driving needed.

Cleanliness is emphasized in the city by their use of free public water fountains around the city as well as numerous green features that include man-made lakes, water fountains, greenery along paths in the center, and gardens on tops of public buildings. The green features work threefold, providing shade to people walking, reducing greenhouse gases and the effects of climate change, and making the city more aesthetically pleasing.

Mobility is a focus through bike shops and rentals spread around the city, having a car free city center, and providing the people of Seestadt with numerous modes of public transportation. As of today, the city has 9,200 residents and 4,500 workers. The goal is to get those numbers to 25,000 residents and 20,000 workers, with the overall city development being 45% complete.

Once our tour of Seestadt was finished, we had the afternoon free to explore the city before meeting for a group dinner. A few of us wanted to go towards the city center and look at the amazing architecture the city had to offer. I saw some of the largest and most detailed buildings I have ever seen that day. We even passed a garden with a statue of Mozart! By the time we felt finished it was almost time for dinner, so we made our way to the restaurant. We had an authentic Austrian meal of Schnitzel and apple strudel for dessert – one of my favorite meals of the trip. After dinner Todd took us behind the restaurant to the Belvedere Palace. He showed us around and explained its history. Once he wrapped up we were all ready for bed. And that is our group’s trip to Vienna, Austria!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: Venice Biennale

By Kaleigh Steigman

Our last day in Venice, we attended the 2022 Biennale of Art, which is held in the historic Venetian Arsenale (i.e., Arsenal) along with the nearby dedicated Biennale grounds. The Arsenale used to be the site of assembly lines to mass produce the military and trade ships central to Venice’s historical dominance of the Mediterranean. Today this massive facility serves multiple purposes. Since 1980, it has housed parts of the Biennale exhibitions, which alternate yearly between focusing on art and architecture.

Throughout its history, the Biennale exhibitions have been critical to international cultural exchanges and have reflected changing political circumstances. Due to the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian art was excluded from the exhibit this year by the board directing the exhibit. This year’s theme was The Milk of Dreams, an exploration of humanity, transformation, and imagination. The exhibit was curated by Cecilia Alemani, who was interested in giving voices to female and non-western artists, and understanding how artists handle crises. The exhibit showcases the work of over 200 artists.

Our tour of the main section of the exhibit covered a variety of displays by different artists across cultural and geographic lines. The work of American artist Simone Leigh resonated particularly with many members of the group. Her art explores how African American women are represented in public spaces, and how confederate monuments can conflate their interactions with public space. Leigh won the prestigious Golden Lion award for her Brick House work in the main Biennale exhibition.

Sculpture by American artist Simone Leigh at Venice Biennale

A theme of many works was the preservation of cultural relics. One Latina artist constructed large pieces replicating old clay furnaces and stoves used by indigenous populations. They worked with archaeologists to mimic the ancient style of pottery of communities whose cultural identity was lost to colonization.

Other exhibits explored human connections to nature. One room was filled with walls of compressed dirt – an artist’s attempt to communicate that nature cannot be dominated.

Other works provided commentary onsustainability through the use of recycled or recovered materials, like one artist who wove old electric components into abstract designs.

These exhibits allowed us to reflect on our own connections to objects, cultural memory, and nature.

After the main exhibit, many of us broke into smaller groups to explore the country-specific exhibits, which were spread throughout the main Biennale gardens. These exhibits also touched upon various themes, including how female and minority populations view their own countries. Often, we had to spend time interpreting the exhibits and how they connected to our own views of each country. After walking through the main room of one exhibit together, some of us were shocked to discover that it was the United States. The display, also created by Simone Leigh, was meant to reflect the experience of African American women in the United States. It reflected a very different relationship with America then some of us felt. Other favorite exhibits included Japan, Korea, Hungary, and Brazil.

Simone Leigh’s exhibit in the American pavilion (Venice Biennale 2022)
Estonian exhibit at the 2022 Venice Biennale
Hungarian exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale
Brazilian exhibition at 2022 Venice Biennale

We finished the day by boarding the night train to Vienna, which is specifically designed to deliver passengers to Vienna the next morning. From the standpoint of speed alone, the train could arrive at 3:00 or 4:00 AM. However, the train went slower to arrive 8:00 AM. For most of us, the only night travel we had done was on a plane or in a car, so this was a very different experience. The train cars themselves were very cramped. There were three beds to a car with one sink and room for about two people to stand at a time. Many of us agreed that we may not choose night trains as our primary mode of long-distance travel ever again, but it was definitely an experience we will not soon forget.

Squeezing into a night train compartment
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable Europe 2022: Venice’s Urban Form

By Katie Smith

On June 13th, we had a free day and a group of us chose to tour the Doge’s Palace. The Doge’s Palace is a staple attraction in Venice and is the former home of the Doges of Venice, who acted as heads of state of the once-powerful Republic of Venice from the first to the eighteenth century. The Dodges were elected by the Venetian aristocracy, rather than being hereditary rulers as was much more common across Europe at the time. The palace was built in the 1300s in the Venetian Gothic style and became a museum open to the public in the 1900s.

Inner courtyard of Doge’s Palace in Venice

This landmark is a critical piece of Venice’s urban form because it has held many purposes for the city of Venice (and broader Venetian empire) over the centuries. The Doge’s Palace has acted as a center for civic engagement in the ever-growing urban environment, whether that be an independent republic or city. In the past, the palace was the central location for government activities for the Republic of Venice. Various councils, such as the Great Council of Venice, and the many Doges used the space to conduct meetings and make decisions on how to best run the Republic. Today, the Palace is used as a space for learning, as it is now a museum on the inside, and also as a space for public gathering on the outside through its various courtyards and outdoor spaces. Outside the palace walls, it also serves as a center for shopping and dining.

Inside the Doge’s Palace

In urban areas, it is vital to have spaces like these open to the public, as there are not many opportunities for people to find outdoor recreational spaces in such tight city bounds.

When comparing the urban form of Venice to other cities, there are many differences. Venice is mainly traveled to and around by boat and has largely become a tourist attraction rather than a city where people really live and perform their daily activities. On the other hand, Freiburg felt like a growing city motivated to advance in many ways while still maintaining its culture, charm, and originality that has thrived for hundreds of years. Similarly, Strasbourg was able to maintain its historic elements while still continuing to develop and adapt to the world’s new technological advancements. In contrast, Venice has become stuck in time instead of becoming a growing center for sustainability and development, especially given its precarious situation with rising water levels and the city foundation sinking. Unless the city of Venice acts quickly, the urban form of the city will soon be lost to the water that it is notorious for.

Balcony in Doge’s Palace overlooking the lagoon
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment