Zapalac -Venice Knowledge Economy (US-ICOMOS 2010)

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    Laurie Zapalac, MSAS, LEED AP

    PhD CandidateDepartment of Urban Studies and Planning

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 10-485Cambridge, MA 02142

    [email protected]+1 512 413 8440


    gis map ?

    Charting the Emergenceof a Knowledge Econom


    Venice, Italy

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    Laurie Zapalac

    [email protected]

    +1 (512) 413-8440


    In this paper, I explore how digital technology and the sustainability imperative

    are changing the use and value of the historic center of Venice, Italy. These

    changes suggest new potential for urban regeneration and lead to larger

    conclusions about the role of Venice and other historic cities in 21st century.

    Even as tourism acts as a dominant force, the historic center of Venice is

    becoming more attractive for certain types of self-directed, highly skilled

    workers who can be described as knowledge workers.1 Through seven case

    studies, along with on-site observation and review of employment and building

    use data in Venice, Italy, I answer the research question: why is the historic

    center of Venice attracting knowledge workers?

    My ndings suggest that a main advantage of the historic center for knowledge

    workers is access to place knowledge -- knowledge accrued over time by a

    local community as well as knowledge embedded within the physical fabric ofthe city. These case studies demonstrate how digital technology is allowing

    workers to generate high value products and services based upon place


    In addition to providing competitive advantages based upon place knowledge,

    the historic city also facilitates physical-virtual social networking and personal

    responses to the sustainability imperative, all of which are viewed as important

    and related concepts by knowledge workers.

    I conclude that the rehabilitated historic center will be more highly valued

    as a place to live and work than in the last century, especially as technologychanges how work is done and erases the temporal and spatial boundaries of

    when and where work takes place. Within this context, the historic center

    of Venice, as well as other cities, can meet the dual objectives of sustainable

    productivity and high worker satisfaction.

    Keywords: Historic Cities; 21st Century Cities; Place Knowledge; Venice;

    Cultural Heritage; Tourism Economics

    1 Drucker, 1966, p. 3

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    PART ONE: Introduction ..................................................................................... 1

    PART TWO: Background ..................................................................................... 4

    PART THREE: Literature Review ...................................................................... 10

    PART FOUR: Research Method and Case Studies ...................................... 16

    PART FIVE: Conclusions .................................................................................... 42

    APPENDIX ONE: Additional Case Study Data ............................................ 48

    APPENDIX TWO: Research Description and Interview Questions ....... 52

    BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................... 56

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    Fig. 1. Aerial photograph of the Venetian lagoon, historic center andmainland area of the Province of Venice. Source: Google Earth

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    Constructed as a defensible community upon a foundation of mud ats and

    wooden pilings, within a nearly unnavigable lagoon, Venice has always been a

    highly articial city set within a dynamic natural environment (see Figure 1).

    Actively managing the tension between urban systems and natural systems isimperative for its continued existence. Historically, Venice has a remarkable

    track record for not only plucky ingenuity, but also extraordinary innovation.

    What bearing does this have on the contemporary city, especially now that

    many of the advances of the Industrial Age, roughly corresponding to the last

    two centuries, produced impacts that are now having to be remedied?

    The dramatic ood which inundated the historic center of the city on

    November 4, 1966, produced three specic outcomes: it renewed interest

    in understanding how development of the Venetian Lagoon and its environs

    impacts the physical integrity of the historic city; it began a debate about how

    to transition the regional economy away from industrial activity; and it inspiredan international campaign dedicated to saving or safeguarding cultural

    heritage. That campaign has since invested millions of dollars in a wide variety

    of projects, from the conservation of singular works of public art to the

    preservation of entire buildings

    The regional and state governments have complete numerous improvements

    to the infrastructure of the city and its environs. In 1973, the government of

    Italy enacted The Special Law for Venice, laying the groundwork for two now

    seemingly contradictory initiatives. It started the development of the multi-

    billion euroModulo Sperimentale Electromeccanico MOSE project, a system

    of inatable dams at the three primary openings of the Venetian lagoon to

    protect the historic center of Venice from high water (acqua alta), a type of

    storm surge now occurring with greater frequency and intensity. It also set

    out to ensure continued economic activity by preserving jobs, particularly

    those in the industrial port of Marghera.1

    Yet, during the course of these interventions, the population of the historic

    center of Venice has continued to decline steeply (from 175,000 in 1951 to

    60,000 in 2009; see Figure 02), while tourism has proliferated, resulting in

    an increasingly homogeneous economy. While both high water and archaic

    infrastructure are frequently cited as major factors in the depopulation of

    the city, the citys relationship with tourism, now mass or global in character,

    appears to be having equally insidious effects on the residential population of

    the city.

    1 Environmentalists and politicians alike have since acknowledged that industrialactivity poses many problems for the lagoon environment; activities such as the dredging

    of the lagoon for deep water ship channels have, in fact, directly contributed to theconditions under which high water takes place. Environmental restrictions enacted by

    the European Union are now reorienting activities in Marghera away from chemicalproduction. See the Introduction by Musu inA Future for Venicefor further description.

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    There are, however, reasons to be optimistic about the regeneration of Venice

    in the 21st century. Venice has again become a point of reference in city-

    making; in Norman Fosters design for the city of Masdar in the United Arab

    Emirates, the design team looked to the scale, physical density and pedestrian-oriented framework of Venice as points of inspiration for a highly sustainable,

    highly networked, new city.

    Even more importantly, some new economic activity emerging both in the

    historic center and on the mainland suggests the potential for a future

    beholden neither to the industrialization of the Venetian lagoon nor to the

    type of tourism that competes with the development of a diversied urban


    This paper focuses on events that have taken place in the roughly the last

    twenty years. A milestone in the shift in thinking about the potential ofthe historic center was the election of Mayor Massimo Cacciari in 1993

    (with tenure until 2000) and his Idea of Venice ... combining history with

    innovation, the conservation of its cultural and artistic values alongside the

    development of available resources.2 This was followed by the creation of

    the new master plan for Venice (1995) under the leadership of Mayor Cacciari

    and Assessor of Urban Planning, Roberto dAgostino.3 The plan attempts to

    address Venices triad of contemporary problems: managing its urban fabric

    and infrastructure, managing tourism, and arresting depopulation. In the

    preface to the plan publication, Cacciari writes:

    The fundamental question that every Venetian will have to confrontin this plan is the following: do we think that Venice can actually save

    itself by inventing for itself and placing within its delicate (urban) fabric

    new functions, new sectors of research, new productive activity? If we

    believe, then this Plan has to be our path of orientation. If we believe,

    instead, that Venice is simply incompatible with innovative technology,

    research, development, and production, and that it should be in every

    case be merely conserved, that it cannot support our steps forward,

    then lets drop this project. But if we drop it, we should also drop the

    discussion about the need to stop the exodus, to revitalize the city, etc.4

    The master plan outlines a strategy for the relationship between the historic

    city center (centro storico), the other lagoon islands (estuario) and mainland

    areas (terraferma) of the Comune of Venice and the larger Veneto Region.


    Though the master plan has produced a number of important initiatives, more

    2 Benevolo, p. 823 The prior master plan for Venice was developed in the 1950s, approved in 1962

    and never fully revised or updated. (Benevolo, p. 82)4 Cacciari, Quale idea per Venezia inNuovo Piano Urbanistico (Benevolo, ed).

    Translated by me.


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    recent policy decisions reect an increasing reliance upon or relenting to the

    dominance of tourism toward the end of Cacciaris last term as mayor (2005

    - March, 2010). Even as these shifts have taken took place, it is possible to

    observe new types of work in Venice at the edge and beyond the traditionalboundaries of the tourism sector, as Cacciaris Idea of Venice implies.

    I rst took notice of this activity through the experience of living and working

    in the historic center at various intervals from 1995 to 2007. The availability

    of electronically published business directories and database as well as

    small, though promising economic indicators documented by the last census

    provides further evidence of this new activity. As noted in The Venice Report

    published in 2009 (by the non-governmental organization, Venice in Peril),

    while the number of jobs in the historic center fell by more than 20 percent

    from 1981 to 2001, between 1991 and 2001, employment in professional

    activities almost doubled.5 The issue now, is to understand more about thearrival or emergence of new types of rms and workers to the historic center.

    This leads me to the primary research question for this paper: why is the

    historic center of Venice attracting knowledge workers? By knowledge

    worker, I mean self-directed, highly skilled workers focused on effectiveness,

    emblematic of Peter Druckers observations about the transition from an

    industrial economy to a knowledge economy.6 Through seven case studies,

    I consider this question by looking at the attributes of knowledge rms

    found within the historic center and the workers associated with them.

    (Knowledge rm may not be the best way to describe the range of rms

    employing knowledge workers, but its the term Ill use for now.) Additionalquestions relating to my primary research question include: Is this activity an

    indicator of the potential to cultivate more high skilled, high wage jobs in what

    has become an increasingly tourist-dominated economy? Does attracting

    knowledge workers offer a strategy for repopulation of the historic center?

    What are the opportunities for and limits to the current activity?


    I have organized this paper in ve sections. In addition to this introduction,

    I provide background about key conditions in Venice in the 20th and 21st

    centuries in Section Two. In Section Three (Literature Review), I discuss

    ideas relating to the changing nature of work and knowledge workers,

    and propose a denition of place knowledge. In Section Four, I describe my

    research method, introduce seven case studies and my ndings from these.

    In Section Five, I present my conclusions and policy recommendations. At

    the end of the paper, I include two appendices (one containing additional

    information about case studies and the other providing further description

    of my research, including interview questions and proposed future research),

    followed by a bibliography.

    5 The Venice Report, p. 526 Drucker, 1966, p.3. See Section Three for further discussion of what constitutes

    a knowledge economy.

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    First, because of the volume of popular literature on Venice, I want to dispel

    three myths:

    1) Venice is not (presently) sinking. Drilling in the Venetian lagoon for freshwater and for natural gas which took place in the 20th century did contribute

    to subsidence, but these practices have since been stopped. Venice is, however,

    quite susceptible to tidal changes.

    2) There is plenty of space. Venice does, however, endure severe but rather

    predictable pedestrian congestion in distinct neighborhoods and along certain

    pathways. In regard to building space availability, a strong real estate market,

    heavily inuenced by the tourist economy and second home ownership, has

    resulted in a very short supply of affordable, reasonably well maintained

    housing options in the historic center. This is compounded by the fact

    that existence in a lagoon environment demands cyclical maintenance. Ifperformed, buildings last centuries. If ignored, reversing damage can be

    arduous. Restrictive historic preservation laws intended to safeguard

    the cultural patrimony of the city often, unintentionally, make building

    rehabilitation slow and costly.

    3) Tourism is not the only form of economic activity present in the city today,

    though it is the dominant activity.

    Three inter-related events in the 20th century have contributed signicantly to

    conditions in the historic city today: industrialization of the Venetian lagoon,

    population loss in the historic center and the rapid expansion of the touristeconomy.


    The health and livelihood of Venice is tied directly to the integrity (and

    morphology) of the Venetian lagoon, whether effected by human intervention

    or natural processes. Industrialization, effecting the scale, nature, and rate

    of changes to the Venetian lagoon, particularly with development of the Port

    of Marghera beginning in the 1920s, has had a dramatic effect on the lagoon

    ecology and infrastructure (see Figure 3). One of the strongest indicators of

    the impact of industrialization has been the increasing frequency and intensity

    of high water.

    The combined impacts of deep water channels for industrial shipping, pollution

    and silt deposits from rivers that drain into the lagoon, as well as a lack of

    maintenance of protective sea walls and canals all exacerbated the effects of

    high water. The proliferation of motor-powered boats has also resulted in

    more wave action, speeding up erosion of building and canal foundations. The

    impact of chemical production on air and water quality has also been a major

    concern. Since the 1960s, many of these impacts have been addressed, though

    some persist, such as the creation of deep water channels to support the


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    expansion of cruise ship activity.

    Debate about the type of development that Venice and the lagoon can sustain

    has been long-standing, but there is no doubt that rising sea level and otherforms of climate change would have strong implications for the continued

    existence of this sea level city.


    While there is some correlation between increasing incidence of high water

    and population decline, the factors cited as contributing to population decline

    are numerous. They are also not merely a result of exodus from the historic

    center, but also larger demographic trends in Italy, including low birth rates

    and a condition of brain drain in which educated Italians are leaving the

    country in pursuit of good jobs.

    The rst denitive study to shed light on demographic change in the historic

    center was the 1969 UNESCO-commissioned,Rapporto Su Venezia. It

    examined many factors contributing to population change, but focused on

    living conditions, and in particular the quality of housing. The report points

    out that the availability of new housing in Mestre, adjacent to the port of

    Marghera, played a signciant role in attracting the inhabitants of the historic

    center, resulting in a form of suburban exodus not unlike what many inner

    cities were experiencing at the time.

    In the context of population loss, the health and continued relevance of

    Venices industries have also been examined, leading to new questions abouthow jobs availability is impacting the population of the historic center.

    Rispoli et al identify the leading materialproduction sectors (in degree of

    product specialization and contribution to workforce) as:


    oil industry (reneries and deposits)

    petrochemical industry

    aluminum intermediate products

    electricity production

    artistic glass production on Murano

    construction and building industry 7

    In regard to immaterial production, another important factor to consider

    is that in the 1980s and 1990s, changes within to banking and insurance

    sector, including a trend toward disaggregation of services, prompted many

    companies, beginning with Assicurazioni Generalil, to leave the historic center

    to locate head ofces on the mainland.8

    7 Rispoli, di Cesare and Stocchett, Material Production in the Municipality ofVenice, in Musu, 138

    8 Rullani and Micelli in Musu, p. 207

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    Venice is one of few cities for which city ofcials and researches have collected

    and analyzed extensive data over time, providing the opportunity to considerhow changes in tourism activity impact a local community and local economy.9

    Cities intent upon expanding their tourist economy should look closely at

    Venice and the lessons that can be learned from it.

    Since World War II, a rise in mass tourism has occurred in Venice. The

    characteristics of mass tourism include: large and cyclical numbers of visitors;

    more people traveling in large groups; more staying for shorter periods

    of time, including daytrippers; and more involvement in the industry by

    multinational corporations, controlling the ow of money generated by the


    In 1951, approximately a million people visited the historic center. In 2007,

    approximately 16.5 million people visited the city.10

    Tourist visitation at this scale has a profound impact, especially on urban

    infrastructure, urban management and maintenance. Two distinct burdens of

    mass tourism are increased impacts on urban infrastructure in the form of

    point loading during high attendance events and the fact that as numbers

    increase, generally the average income generated per visitor decreases.

    Beyond this, the extraordinary demand of tourists for accommodations, as

    well as for food, drink and other basic needs, impacts supply and demandwithin the local economy, effecting not only real estate value, but the general

    cost of living in the historic center.

    Within the timeframe that tourism has continuously increased, population

    has continuously decreased. While correlation does not imply causation, it

    is seems only reasonable to suggest that if it is desired to reverse the trend

    of population, the increasing impact of tourism will have to be thought about

    differently. Better management of this industry necessitates thinking beyond

    the physical impact of tourism to its indirect effects on factors known to

    contribute to population loss, such as the condition and cost of housing, job

    choice and the availability of services. It is also important to consider the

    social impacts of different forms of tourism on a local community.

    At present, tourism is Venice is estimated to generate 1.5 billion euro

    annually.11 There are, however, no guarantees of future rates of return,

    especially as other destinations become more sophisticated, as high value

    9 The work of Jan Van der Borg at the CISET, the Center for the Study of

    Tourism Economics at Ca Foscari has been particular informative.10 The Venice Report, p. 33.

    11 Ibid, p. 45

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    Figure 2. Population change over time.

    Source: Graphic excerpted from the Venice

    Report (data source: COSES), p. 12.

    tourists become more discerning, as the per capita rate of return for mass

    tourists declines and as global tourism companies siphons off prots before

    tourists ever reach their destination. The paradox is that unless tourism is

    carefully and aggressively managed, the city will be left holding even larger bills

    as residents, and then tourists, will go elsewhere.

    The morphology of Venice may be unique, but the challenges of dealing withthe combined impact of industrialization, population loss12 and the effects of

    unbridled tourism are not. What can be learned about the interrelationship

    of these issues in Venice will likely prove valuable for other cities.

    Now, in the 21st century, Venice is being shaped by a set of new forces. These

    include the idea of sustainability, the realization of the MOSE project and the

    seemingly boundless potential of digital technology (see Figure 4).


    Though there is no precise agreement about what the forces (or severity of

    issues) are that make changes in action necessary, the sustainability movementhas been formidable. With the publication of Our Common Future by the

    World Commission on Environment in Development (Bruntland Report,

    1987), the United Nations established the idea that managing the environment

    and development are a single issue. From this report has come an aggressive

    unrolling of environment regulation in Europe, including legislation now12 In the debate about whether it is important to maintain Venice as a populated

    residential city, or whether it should be thought about as something else (museum city,etc.), I would point on that on purely practical terms, the most cost-effective way to

    maintain the unique urban environment -- even if it is only in service to the tourismindustry -- is to maintain Venice as a living city with an intact knowledge base about howto manage this environment.

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    Figure 3. 20th Century Threats:

    Industrialization represented by the Port of

    Marghera, high water, and mass tourism.

    Sources: Google Earth, Venice in Peril, photoby author.

    altering the chemical industry in the Port of Marghera.13

    More broadly, the sustainability imperative is producing three interrelated

    outcomes. It is changing industry regulation and accountability (including life-cycle costs and impacts) and setting new expectations for both cities and rms

    to develop sustainability agendas (emphasizing proactive measures to be green

    and competitive). It is also profoundly effecting changes in personal decision-

    making, inuencing individuals not only in major issues such as where and how

    to work and live, but also in decisions made on an every day basis, such as

    what to buy (or not buy) and what to eat.



    After decades of research and debate, the Venetian and Italian government

    have been successful in starting construction on the MOSE project to managehigh water conditions. This large-scale systemic responses to changing

    conditions of the Venetian lagoon represents an investment in the physical

    infrastructure of the lagoon that will reach $4.3 billion euro or higher.14 The

    endeavor has included extensive research funding to develop the solution

    for managing and monitoring the lagoon, leading to the creation of new rms

    and research institutes that are amassing extraordinary amounts of data and

    knowledge about the lagoon and urban environment. The system is expected

    operational in 2012.


    In the Industrial Age, concepts of linear thinking and efciency in production

    (making things faster and cheaper, with much less concern for the externalities

    of natural resource depletion) dominated. Today, changes in digital technology

    open up a world of new possibilities, particularly for sectors delivering

    13 Job loss in the Port of Marghera as a result of plants closing or becoming

    decommissioned presents another major challenge for the economy of Venice and theVeneto.14 Consorzio Venezia Nuova web site:

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    Figure 4. 21st Century Opportunities?

    Sustainability policy, part of the MOSE project

    and new source for digital technology -- a

    Vodafone store -- in the historic centerSources: Amazon, Consorzio Venezia Nuova,

    photo by author.

    intangible products (media, data analysis, etc.).

    Digital technology is changing the way residents and visitors alike use and

    experience the historic center. In their article Immaterial Production inVenice, Rullani and Micelli point out that immaterial production in Venice

    already plays an important role in the citys economy; by their analysis of 1991

    cross-sector census data (real estate, legal services, business consultants,

    banking and publishing, etc), those already employed in this activity comprised

    approximately 45% of the total employment in the city, with tourism,

    transport, and non-retail trade comprising 27% and employment in industry,

    comprising roughly the same percentage. 15 In reference to expansion, they


    It is not necessarily a matter, as several international observers have

    pointed out, of bringing programmers from all over the world to Venicefor the purpose of making the city a capital of software or of electronic

    component production. Instead, it is necessary to reconsider the

    entirety of the activities currently carried out in the historical centre

    in different terms, by evaluating, case by case and sector by sector, the

    impact of the new information technology on the transformation in

    the chain of value in the different economic functions. Each immaterial

    activity present in the Venice, from trading to trade, from the supply of

    museum services to publishing is open to being digitalised and made


    These factors suggest a renewed potential for the viability and economic

    productivity of the historic center in the 21st century. What opportunities

    can these conditions create? What role will knowledge and heritage play in

    this new existence?

    15 Rullani and Micelli p. 197-203 in Musu, 2001.

    16 Rullani and Micelli p. 201 in Musu, 2001.

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    To understand what constitutes a knowledge economy and why it may be

    a highly appropriate activity for a historic city, it is important to understand

    distinctions between different types of knowledge. Websters Dictionarydenes knowledge as acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from

    study or investigation; general erudition. Knowledge is what is created

    from the studying or processing of information, including information gained

    through direct and indirect experience.

    Anthropologists and sociologists use the term traditional knowledge to

    describe knowledge accrued over time by a particular community. Traditional

    knowledge may include or be closely linked to specic beliefs, values or

    practices. It often, though not always, takes on a spiritual signicance or serves

    as the basis for the cosmology or world view held by a community. Traditional

    knowledge combines both practical and moral purpose, such as when it isused to manage natural resources for the long term good of a community.

    Ethnographers use the term local knowledge to describe the specic

    knowledge a community holds about a particular region or place.17 In

    this application, the term local knowledge might be understood as place-

    specic attributes of traditional knowledge. More recently, participants in

    urban planning have started to use the term local knowledge in reference

    to knowledge of how things work within a specic community structure.

    The use of the term in this capacity speaks to the importance of insights and

    perspective contributed by local stakeholders to the planning process.18


    Educators present another denition of knowledge: place knowledge

    describes how children construct an understanding of the world around

    them.19 Place Knowledge is also used in the eld of robotics, to describe how

    robots build place recognition based upon interaction in the physical world.

    In both cases, it speaks to the process of assigning meaning to attributes and

    experiences in a physical environment and thus, is indicative of the relationship

    between environment and individual (or robot).20

    For the purpose of this paper, I suggest that place knowledge is an

    appropriate, more broadly encompassing term that can encompass traditional

    and local knowledge, including as they are applied in a contemporary planning

    context. Further, it is constructive to think of place knowledge in two

    capacities: as accrued knowledge and embedded knowledge. Like

    traditional knowledge, accrued knowledge can refer to knowledge that has

    been assembled by a community over time, but inclusive of both informal

    17 Gertz, 198318 Healey, 1998.

    19 Joshi et al, 1999.20 LangleyandPeger,p.344-352

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    and formal methods of transmission, in tangible form (such as written

    documents) as well as intangible (virtual, oral, temporal) form. An example of

    tangible and formal accrued knowledge would be the knowledge that can be

    sourced from the Venetian Archives. An example of informal and intangible

    accrued knowledge would be one neighbor telling another about a particular

    location to sh, or the best time and route to travel to arrive at a particular

    destination. Advances in information technology are, undoubtedly, dramatically

    impacting how people can transmit this knowledge.

    Embedded knowledge is distinguishable by the fact that is manifest in

    the conditions and use of the built environment. This knowledge can be

    understood as knowledge that is passed indirectly from one person to

    another vis--vis the form and use of buildings and space such as in Figure

    5. In this capacity, the physical and spatial construction of the city is both a

    cultural and environmental record; architecture takes on a communicative

    value or language, not unlike words on paper. Embedded knowledge can

    be highly informative about specic environmental conditions; it can be

    equally useful (and more universally applicable) as a means for understanding

    the relationship between people and the built environment, specically

    by exposing how different types of buildings and spaces engender distinct

    behaviors, activities and social interactions.

    Sourcing embedded knowledge, which might be thought of as above ground

    archaeology can also reveal specic ways in which a culture shapes the

    built environment to respond to the repertoire of human needs. Because

    embedded knowledge is conveyed through the medium of the environment,

    Embedded Knowledge

    Accrued Knowledge

    Real Time Information


    Fig 5. An illustration of different types of

    knowledge and information in the historic


    1) Embedded Knowledge: a light-weight

    structural bracing solutions

    2) Accrued Knowledge: a mother knowingwhere to take her child to learn to ride a bike

    in Venice

    3) Real-Time Information: a man speaking on

    a cell phone, charting the progress of an event

    across town

    4) Feedback: the child learning to ride the

    bike reads and responds to the bumps in

    the stone pavers

    Source: photo by author

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    the mining of this resource often requires more (or a wider range) of

    sensory engagement than acquisition of knowledge through more passive

    knowledge acquisition, such as reading or listening to lectures.

    As an example, in Venice, one can understand the normal extremes of the

    tide (at least before the increasing incidence of high water) by observing thelocation and width of the band of Istrian stone at the ground level of most

    buildings (see Figure 6). Traditionally, in the planning and construction of a

    building, the width was determined so as to encompass the high and low tide

    levels. Below the stone band and intended to be continuously submerged is

    a base of wood pilings. Above the stone band, walls are constructed of brick

    and plaster materials that are less costly and lighter, but also more porous.

    Though the tolerances have shifted over time, this construction technique

    is still a practical way to build in the Venetian lagoon. (When water rises

    above the stone, it wicks through and eats away at the porous plaster and

    brick, often leaving behind a residue of salts, known as eforescence, after the

    water has evaporated. The height of a salt line is another indicator of tidalconditions over time.)

    Combining the opportunity to utilize accrued and embedded knowledge, a

    living historic city serves as a laboratory for understanding how the use of

    the built environment changes over time, especially in regard to critical events,

    such as the introduction of new technologies, how cultures adapt and change

    to environmental conditions, as well as what they value in symbols and signs.

    Related to this idea, it is important to consider the meaning of heritage.

    Heritage refers to that which is passed down to future generations, ; with

    Embedded Knowledge

    Real Time Information


    Accrued Knowledge

    Fig. 6. An illustration of different types of

    knowledge and information in the historic


    1) Embedded Knowledge: Istrian stone bands

    reveal normal tidal range.

    2) Accrued Knowledge: building restorationpractices

    3) Real-Time Information: the actual water


    4) Feedback: An art installation from the

    2009 Biennale. According the artists

    statement, it makes a general comment about

    the state of the universe ... not just Venice.

    Source: photo by author

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    the implicit understanding that what is passed down retains some form of

    value; it does not mean things that are old. Heritage includes tangible objects,

    such as buildings, as well as intangible elements, such as rituals, stories and

    even knowledge. Cultural heritage simply refers to elements of heritageshared in some capacity by a group. Importantly, the recognition of something

    as heritage does not preclude change in its form, use, or value; rather, it

    provides a conceptual frame in which change can be understood.

    In the case of Venice much though not all of the citys cultural heritage,

    manifest in both tangible and tangible forms, reects pre-industrial ways of

    thinking. These may nd new application in the 21st century, not with the idea

    of going back in time, but rather, taking relevant ideas forward into the future.


    Writer and management consultant Peter Drucker rst formalized the ideaof a knowledge worker in The Effective Executive (1966), distinguishing a

    knowledge worker as one who primarily deals with information to use

    or create knowledge. Drucker placed emphasis on the skilled worker as

    a thinker and problem-solver. In The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our

    Changing Society(1969) Drucker outlined the necessary steps for companies

    to be competitive in a post-industrialist society.

    According to Drucker, a knowledge economyrecognizes:

    1) information as a key raw resource or raw material (the input for an


    2) Knowledge as the essential tool used to transform information into aproductive good

    3) the development or application of ideas as the critical -- if not central --

    part of the labor process.

    A knowledge economy can generate physical goods, but increases value by

    producing things that are intangible design, concepts, analysis and media, for


    Like Drucker, Frances Cairncross proves to be a highly perceptive observer.

    In the Death of Distance, rst published in 1997, Cairncross draws upon

    strong foundational knowledge and broad access to information as a writer

    at The Economist. She outlines a series of trends about how changes in

    communications technology will impact the nature of work and society as a

    whole. Among the many trends she describes, three are particularly relevant

    to this investigation.

    First is her primary observation about the death of distance, Distance will

    no longer decide the cost of communicating electronically. She predicts that

    technology will signicantly facilitate supply distribution, bringing distribution

    cost nearly to zero, particularly when what is being distributed are ideas.

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    Second is the observation about location. She states, Companies will be free

    to locate many screen-based activities wherever they can nd the best bargain

    of skills and productivity. In doing so, she correctly predicts an initial boom

    in outsourcing and proliferation of distributed ofces. However, she fails topaint a complete picture, particularly of the importance of location to start up

    companies and to small rms and sole proprietors. Left out of the discussion

    on competitive advantage is the ability for location to dictate access to certain

    types of information (such as information related to place knowledge) as well

    as to provide opportunities for physical contact with clients and associates.

    Third, she identies the rebirth of cities as an outcome of the communications

    revolution, suggesting cities will change from concentrations of ofce

    employment to centers of entertainment and culture.21 As changes in

    communications dissolve the temporal boundaries of the workday and the

    physical boundaries of the ofce, Cairncross sees increasing separationbetween work activity and everything else, painting a rather two-dimensional

    picture of future cities as places devoid of productive purpose. She also

    places an extreme value on the capacity to work virtually, and in doing so,

    undervalues the physical places of work. Cairncross fails to conceive of the

    importance of work environments both as places of inspiration and as frames

    for human interaction in which social relationships contribute to trust building,

    idea sharing and decision-making.

    It is fascinating to turn from the observations of Cairncross to those of

    economist Edward Glaeser and urban theorist Richard Florida. Both explore

    questions arising from Death of Distance concepts and the increasingcapacity of the knowledge worker to choose where he or she lives and works.

    They do so by considering what these changes means for cities that seek

    to be competitive by fostering a knowledge economy. Unlike Cairncrosss

    interpretation of the future function of cities, Florida and Glaeser each

    advocate for the role of dense environments in fostering idea transmission.

    Where Glaeser and Florida differ, however, is in their evaluation of how

    cities attract human capital. In The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida argues

    that in a post-industrialist society, among highly skilled labor force, lifestyle

    interests take on more importance than job location in determining where

    people will live. He believes that the recipe for economic development is a

    city that fosters technology, talent and tolerance in order to attract certain

    types of creative individuals. Floridas research has been especially useful in

    dening why lifestyle is becoming an increasing important factor in location

    choice among knowledge workers, which he terms the creative class and in

    acknowledging the economic importance of creativity. His conclusions about

    the associative relationship between creativity and certain lifestyle preferences,

    as well as the role of particular subsets of creative class workers have,

    however, endured much scrutiny.

    21 Cairncross, p.xvi

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    Glaeser draws from his own research, as well as his critical analysis of

    Floridas data to conclude that urban success comes from being an attractive

    consumer city for high skilled people, taking a more traditional view of the

    importance of human capital to generate economic growth.22 Glaeser holdsthat the most important offering a city can make is job choice and job quality.

    He also suggests that the composite of people matters less (specically in

    response to Floridas Bohemian Index) and that creativity, or more specically,

    the capacity for creative-problem solving, does not necessarily predetermine

    lifestyle choices, or specically, where people want to live.23 Additionally, apart

    from density, Glaeser places little emphasis on the physical characteristics of

    the city in fostering or reinforcing social relationships or in directly informing

    the any type of work process.

    The role of the built environment in fostering economic competitiveness is

    especially interesting to consider given the rapid growth in social networkingfacilitated by virtual environments, which is in turn reshaping the use

    and social value of physical space. There is also the important issue that

    knowledge of and experience in the built environment is vital to many sectors

    and industries. Even, or especially, as communication technology is negating

    distance, in a knowledge economy, place matters even more because of the

    economic potential to be realized from place knowledge.

    Both Floridas and Glaesers work are immensely helpful as a frame for my

    investigation; the historic center of Venice is an interesting place to test

    the importance of being an attractive consumer city to residents and to

    observe the lifestyle characteristics (and consumptive practices) of knowledgeworkers. The seven case studies described in the next chapter provide the

    opportunity to overlap these critical idea and to consider what conditions are

    most important for the historic center of Venice to attract and retain human

    capital within its resident population.

    Finally, ideas in two other works have shaped this study. David Throsbys

    bookEconomic and Culture, establishes the difculty of trying to assign value to

    culture within standard economic models, emphasizing, I think rightly the need

    to focus more the role of culture as generators of economies, rather than

    merely focusing on how to quantify cultural products or the development of

    cultural industries. Brian Grahams paper, Heritage as Knowledge: Capital

    or Culture? delves deep into questions about the relationship between

    heritage and the knowledge-based city. His emphasis on knowledge as a form

    of intangible heritage, articulating the importance of place in the rooting of a

    knowledge-based economy is extremely relevant to the cases I observed in


    22 Glaeser, 2005, p. 593 and Glaeser et al,, 200123 Glaeser, 2005, p. 593

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    Having established that the historic center of Venice is greatly dependent upon

    tourism and that this dependence is likely to continue in some capacity in

    the future, the aim of this investigation is to chart the emergence of new, but

    related economic activity in the historic center. To explore why the historiccenter of Venice is attracting knowledge workers (and to what degree it is), I

    conducted a series of on-site interviews in January 2010 and developed seven

    case studies.24

    I frame this investigation with the objective of understanding how technology

    is changing the way people live and work, as well as how the sustainability

    imperative is causing a reevaluation of the resources of historic center. I

    am specic interested to evaluate if knowledge workers in Venice share

    characteristics with knowledge workers documented in other cities (by

    the work of Florida and Glaeser) or whether they have other important

    characteristics. Based upon the idea of place knowledge, I perceive that theremight be important relationships between knowledge workers and historic

    cities that havent been previously articulated in existing more quantitative-

    based analysis.


    My objective is to understand if knowledge workers are locating in the historic

    center because it offers them a competitive advantage, and if so, how this

    advantage relates to:

    Input -- access to (tangible or intangible) resources, including information

    Production or performance processes -- access to know-how, collaboration/

    strategic partnerships as well as lifestyle conditions that directly result in

    performance optimization

    Output -- brand value and physical proximity to point of sale

    Based upon my emphasis on the value of place knowledge, I established the

    following hypothesis for this investigation:

    If knowledge workers choose to locate in the historic center, then there

    will be some discernible evidence that locating there provides a competitive

    advantage directly related to the use of place knowledge.

    Alternatively, it may be that knowledge workers are locating in the historic

    center based primarily on lifestyle objectives (not related to performance

    optimization), with little to no concern for gaining competitive advantage as a

    result of locating in the historic center. Before I identied the specic cases,

    I surmised that I might encounter some remote workers for which work

    has little to do with the environment in which the work is taking place. (An

    example might be an Internet technology consultant working on projects

    for a bank in London, but doing the work from Venice). For such individuals,

    24 For a more complete description of my research design, see appendix two.


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    the historic center might meet social objectives (living in a cultured city)

    or general lifestyle objectives (living in a car free city, hence making the

    consultant less stressed). As it turned out, none of the cases included here

    could accurately be described as remote workers. I expect that some remoteworkers do exist in the historic center and imagine that understanding their

    reasons for locating in Venice might actually be more informative and more

    nuanced than term remote worker implies.


    I arrived at the following case studies as a result of snowball method. I

    began my research into possible rms to interview by reviewing web sites,

    including online business directories and resources made available by the

    City of Venice. I asked for recommendations of potential case studies

    from knowledge holders in Venice as well as from each rm who agreed

    to participate. I contacted individuals from ten rms and seven agreed toparticipate.

    The method of case selection is biased toward individuals with active

    professional networks in the historic center as well as toward work that

    others perceive to be related to a knowledge economy. (For instance, my

    case selection methodology did not lead me to seek out and interview any

    accountants, though depending upon how they are conducting their work,

    they might t the characteristics of knowledge workers.)


    Finally, while the issue of cost of living (housing as well as other costs)and cost of doing business (rental costs for ofce space, transportation /

    commuting costs) are not addressed quantitatively in this research, it should

    be generally considered that sole proprietors and individuals afliated with

    smaller rms often consider such costs collectively when making a location

    choice, as they usually directly incur both sets of costs. For many knowledge

    workers, the increased exibility in choosing where to work, whether it is in

    an individual ofce, in a co-working environment, from a caf or even from

    home, means that there are often more options, thus generating more price

    elasticity in ofce costs. Comparatively, the historic center offers fewer

    options for suitable, affordable housing.

    Therefore, certain preferences, such as the ability to walk to work, which may

    appear to be strongly afliated with lifestyle, have important implications for

    both the costs of doing business as well as the optimization of physical, social

    and emotional conditions under which an individual is most productive. More

    comprehensive consideration of the choice implications about where to live

    and work (and the relationship between the two) is not limited to knowledge

    workers. Many individuals are thinking differently about such choices.25

    25 Rosenbloom, 2010

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    I established six primary questions intended to produce responses by which

    the proposed hypothesis could be considered. The questions are:

    1) What types of activities have emerged? (Activity)

    2) Where do they locate? (Location)

    3) When have they come about? (Time frame)

    4) How do they work? (How do they use space?)

    5) Who do they involve?

    6) Why do they locate in the historic center?


    1) What types of activities have emerged in the historic center?

    The seven case studies can be grouped into two overarching categories:

    knowledge-transferringrms (see Fig. 6) and information-driven rms (see Fig. 7).

    Knowledge-transferringrms place high importance on putting knowledge,

    practices, and, in some cases, raw materials from historic industries in Venice

    to use for new productive purposes. Some rms activities are more closely

    elated to the historic economy of the city than others; often the transfer of


    Vento di Venezia

    Old boats


    Boat building craft

    Restored boats

    Design school

    Ski Stradivarius

    Surplus cured wood


    Boat building craft

    Graphic design

    Custom snow skis

    I Tre Mercanti

    Food & wine products


    Trade / shipping

    Curated selection

    for the new global

    market place

    Fig. 7. Knowledge-transferring CaseStudies.

    Source: photo by author and clips from rm

    web sites

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    knowledge is specically enhanced by the introduction of new technology, as

    well as by how design and creative problem-solving plays into the process.

    Three of the seven rms interviewed t these criteria. These include:

    Vento di Venezia

    As early as the 12th century, the clergy of Venice occupied the island

    of La Certosa, located a short distance the eastern tip of the Castello

    neighborhood of the historic center (see Figure 8). The island is named for a

    15th century Carthusian monastery, which lies in ruins. In the 19th and 20th

    centuries, the island was used as a military base and explosive factory; more

    recently it served as trash dump. In 1984, a group of Venetian citizens activists,

    led by Cesare Scarpa, united to create a committee to reclaim the island for

    public good. In the 1990s, they gained the support of mayor Massimo Cacciari,

    and then, city hall, which set aside funds for the project through the Special

    Law for Venice. Subsequently, the island was transferred from national to

    municipal control.

    In 2004, the group Vento di Venezia was awarded a lease on the western

    portion of the island, with the stipulation that the island be accessible to

    visitors and citizens. Founded by a group of sailors including Italian Olympian

    Alberto Sonino, champion solo navigator Giovanni Soldini and Matteo Vianello,


    Art Studio

    Studio Camuffo

    Cultural information

    + Commentary

    Media design

    Publications, media



    Tourism information

    + Analytics

    Media design

    Consulting reports

    Branding / marketing

    Visual information

    + Digital editing

    Interior design

    Digital art


    Forma Urbis

    City information

    + Analytics

    Software design

    Resource management

    Digital models

    Fig. 7. Information-driven Case Studies.Source: photo by author and clips from rm

    web sites

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    the groups ideas was to create a nautical center open to anyone rooted

    in the citys historic ties with the sea.26

    The program of Vento di Venezia includes a nautical workshop involved in boat

    repair and hand construction of traditional Venetian vessels. It is different,

    however, from the still numerous boat repair workshops found throughoutthe city, for two reasons. The public-private project has lead to the creation

    of a full-service marina with moorings for 120 boats and now includes charter

    services, sailing and other recreational boating lessons. It also includes a small

    nautically-themed hotel and bar / restaurant run by Vento di Venezia. This

    makes it a participant in Venices primary industry tourism but only as a

    complement to the multi-functional nautical program and maritime experience

    it offers. This emphasis on recreational, rather than merely commercial

    motorized navigation requires an acute understanding of vessel construction

    and maintenance, navigation, and even wind conditions, all forms of accrued

    knowledge drawing from pre-industrial navigation practices (of which

    Venice has an extremely long history) while also integrating contemporarytechnologies. Vento di Venezia now partners with the French sailing school Les

    Glnans to offer educational programs for competitive sailing.

    The other distinctive aspect of Vento di Venezia is that its focus on boat-

    building led to a partnership with the European Institute of Design (EID) in

    2006, a design university with programs in fashion, industrial design, visual

    arts and communications, now with locations in nine cities. The Venice EID

    program includes photography, documentary lmmaking and fashion design,

    but the hallmark of the program is a yacht design program. Within a compact

    26 Riva, p. 3

    Fig. 8. La Certosa, with the neighborhood

    of Castello behind it.

    Source: photos from rm web site

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    physical area, the Vento di Venezia project makes possible for students to

    access to access the accrued knowledge of a working harbor, as well as the

    embedded knowledge present in traditional sailing vessels, from which they

    can draw inspiration.

    The program for La Certosa is the only one of the case studies that includes

    a specic, direct public improvement objective. The opportunity to create

    highly competitive services by tapping place knowledge is described by Vento

    di Venezia:

    The Vento di Venezia Yachting Centre began in 2004 on the initiative

    of a group of young Venetians who wanted to promote the various

    attractions of Venice to the nautical world from traditional boats

    to regatta prototypes. But that was not all. The philosophy of the

    group was that new forms of boating for pleasure are possibleand are also likely; given the growing demand in this sector. 27

    The former director the Venice EID program shared a similar sentiment when

    interviewed for an article in the Wall Street Journal, Weve been able to

    create this little jewel, a real center of excellence and with Venices traditional

    ties to the arts, there couldnt be a better setting.28

    Ski Stradivarius

    What started as a hobby in the form of a ski-making class for Franco

    Sonzongo, a former telecommunications executive, has lead to a full time

    business that involves both Mr. Sonzogno and his wife, Angela Sonzogno, aformer banking executive, as participants in its operation (see Figure 9). The

    company is dened by their passion for snow skiing combined with a drive

    toward constant product improvement.

    The manufacturing process used by Ski Stradivarius utilizes surplus wood,

    stockpiled for the construction of gondolas, as well as knowledge of boat

    building craft, to produce high performance all wood custom snow skis.

    A key aspect in the ability to produce a high performance product was

    Mr. Sonzognos realization that the quality of the cured wood and the

    construction practices used in boat making could be utilized in such a way

    that no aluminum or reinforcing metal was required in the ski construction,

    the binding of wood and metal often being the failure point in mass produced

    skis. Ski Stradivarius has also turned to Venices glass making industry for the

    graphic design component of the skis, sometimes collaborating with specic

    artists from that industry on one-of-a-kind creations. Realizing the creation of

    a brand, Ski Stradivarius has expanded production to include ski bindings. It

    also collaborates with other manufacturers to produce ski gear and jewelry

    bearing the Ski Stradivarius logo.

    27 Vento di Venezia web site: Cristina Marchetti, former director of the IED Venice, as quoted by Riva, p.3

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    Ski Stradivarius sells these skis and other products through a referral-based

    club membership that also requires members to commit to a set of ethnics on

    the ski slopes. (For example, all members wear helmets will skiing.) The club

    membership has a secondary benet in that creates a tight feedback loop: if a

    certain design performs particularly well or poorly, Mr. Sonzogno will no doubt

    hear about it.

    Ski Stradivarius includes a facility on the island of Guidecca (part of the

    Dorsoduro neighborhood of the historic center) that is used to store

    the cured wood and to complete manufacturing. The ground oor of the

    Sonzogno family palazzo, located in the Santa Croce neighborhood, is used to

    store nished skis, as well as to workshop space to perform certain nishing

    of crafted skis, and to host club activities.

    I Tre Mercanti

    In some aspects, I Tre Mercanti (The Three Merchants) is the most

    traditional of the case studies, drawing inspiration from the mercantile roots

    of Venice, including knowledge of trade and shipping strategies (see Figure

    10). I Tre Mercanti sells high quality Italian products primarily food and wine

    with the distinction that they create or curate a selection and provide the

    consumer with detailed information, in the form of an online database, about

    the provenance of the selected products. The founders of I Tre Mercanti, three

    Venetian friends, conceived of the idea of developing a high quality marketplace

    in the fabric of the historic center simultaneously with a virtual marketplace

    / web store, setting them apart from other commercial activity in Venice. I

    Tre Mercanti delivers not only high quality goods, but also a knowledge-rich

    Fig. 9. Franco Sonzogno, with nished

    skis(left); traditional gondola repair (top);

    Mr. wood assmebly (bottom center); Angela

    Sonzogno displays the Ski Stradivarius brand

    on a bracelet (bottom right).

    Sources: photo by authors

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    buying experience, in some cases capitalizing on the consumers memory of

    discovering particular products during their trip to Venice.

    Another innovative aspect of the rm is their approach to shipping.29 Many

    stores in Venice will ship what you buy. I Tre Mercanti has evolved the

    concept such that buyers make selections of products from the store orfrom the online store, with shipping as an integrated service and cost of

    the delivered product. This allows customers to know the near complete

    cost (with the exception of customs taxes) that will be spent to receive the

    product. It also allows the rm to limit the amount of inventory required to

    be kept on site. In some cases, I Tre Mercanti can even wait to place orders

    with vendors until after an order has been received from a customer.

    Among the case studies, I Tre Mercanti is the most direct participant within

    the tourist economy of Venice. Yet, their use of communication technology

    is allowing them to expand beyond its traditional temporal and spatial

    boundaries, selling to customers even after they return to their place of

    residence. Similar to other rms proled in this study, their success requires

    an acute understanding of the visitor experience within the historic city,

    including consumers habits and associations within this environment.

    The founders of I Tre Mercanti view this venture as an extension of other

    business activity. Founder Emanuele Dal Carlo also runs the branding,

    advertising and design rm DNA Italia.30 Dal Carlo is now developing a new

    30 Ibid. Among the individuals interviewed, Mr. Dal Carlo was the only personwho did not live in the historic center, having relocated to Mestre. He explained that his

    Fig. 10. Emanuele in the ofce of DNA Italia

    (top left); I Tre Mercanti storefront (bottom


    Sources: photos by authors, web site screen


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    social networking venture dedicated to connecting visitors with residents of

    destination cities, capitalizing on the knowledge of how to live well (even if

    temporarily) in a particular environment.

    In the second category are rms engaged in information-driven activities. These

    rms are more acutely in the knowledge industry realm in the respect

    that they rely upon few physical raw materials as primary inputs for their

    production processes. They are all in some way working with intangible

    resources usually information -- as the basis for what they are creating.

    Bressanello Art Studio

    Bressenalleo Art Studio is a gallery of digital photography launched in 2004 by

    photographer Fabio Bressanello. To be precise, Fabio Bressanello extracts

    the embedded visual information of the city as content for producing digital

    photographs that function as both gurative works and abstract art. Mr.Bressanello also collaborates with interior designers to produce custom art

    installations. Based upon the extremely

    streamline production and use of visual

    information as primary input, both the

    gurative and abstract works can be

    considered products of a knowledge

    economy. It is interesting, however, that

    Mr. Bressanello articulates a distinction

    between them, describing the gurative

    works as images for tourists, while

    indicating of the abstract works, such asthe large-scale images of plaster patterns

    on a wall of a house in Burano (Fig. 11),

    these are what Im really passionate

    about.31 This distinction reects a

    tension between serving a tourist

    economy or a broader creative economy,

    but it also speaks to Mr. Bressanellos

    exible entrepreneurial nature. Other

    artists and artisans in the historic center,

    who desire to produce work that will be acknowledged as contemporary

    culture, but who choose to spend at least some making products that they

    think are geared toward the tourist market, likely share his sentiment.

    Working with a German software company, Mr. Bressanello has developed

    Art Views, a free application available on ITunes that provides a slide show

    of his images set to music selected by the user. The app serves as a form of

    marketing and brand development.

    relocation was prompted by the desire to live close to where he worked most frequently,

    theofcelocationof DNAItalia.

    31 Interview with Fabio Bressanello, January 20, 2010

    Fig. 11. An abstract work by Fabio

    Bressanello. Detail of plaster on a house in

    Burano.Source: Bressenello Art Studio web site.

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    Studio Camuffo

    Originally founded by Giorgio Camuffo as a graphic

    design rm, Studio Camuffo has since evolved to

    provide content in form of publications, media andevents. While providing a broad range of exhibit-

    related services for Venices museums and cultural

    institutions, Studio Camuffo has also developed a

    series of projects to document key issues about life

    in Venice today, under the collective of publications

    with the slightly tongue-in-cheek title, Venice is

    Not Sinking. Similar to the commedia dellarte

    tradition of 16th and 17th century Venice, in which

    observations about the political and economic

    conditions of the day were conveyed through the

    vehicle of theatrical comedy, these projects createan opportunity for public commentary and debate,

    achieved in multiple media platforms. For example,

    their project Se fossi sindaco (If I were mayor

    ) involved recording the ideas most often in to

    do list format -- of more than 100 citizens about

    what actions they would take for the future of the

    city if they were elected mayor. This collective

    was produced as a simple, but graphically engaging

    book as well as an independent web site to which

    subsequent content has been added over time.32 The web site eventually

    included video interviews of actual mayoral candidates as well as otherVenetian citizens (see Figure 12). This ability to assemble such a project is

    very much based upon accrued knowledge of local politics in Venice; what they

    have produced from this knowledge, in turn, becomes a record of the thought

    and self-expression of (at least part of) the Venetian community at a specic

    point in time.


    A web advertising company founded by Annalisa Ballaria in 2006, Relactions

    provides a range of services to the travel and hospitality industry. Relactions

    has been particularly adept at understanding how to deliver the traditional

    services of a marketing and public relations rm within the environment of

    the World Wide Web. Services include brand development, graphic design,

    advertising content and strategy as well as search engine optimization and

    online public relations, among others. Capitalizing on the ability to directly

    measure responses to Internet advertising, Relactions uses ne-grained

    feedback to make necessary adjustments within the course of a campaign

    (closer to real time) and to propose alternative methods for future campaigns.

    32 Se io fossi sindaco, nominerei Ciubecca assessore al decoro (If I were mayor, I wouldnominate Chewbacca as Assessor of Decor) published by Venice is Not Sinking, Venice:2009. Web site:

    Fig. 12. A web screen shot from Studio

    Camuffos If I were mayor ... program.

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    Relactions produces analytical reports based upon the

    ability to mine a large quantity of data about tourism

    (see Fig. 12) Being based in the historic center allows

    the added opportunity for direct observation anddocumentation of tourism activity in service to clients

    not only in Venice, but also far beyond the Venetian

    lagoon. This is particularly critical when the relationship

    between hospitality design and services and tourism

    management is considered. While a city government

    establishes the policy that guides the management

    of tourism in a historic city, hospitality and tourism

    companies deliver products and services not only in

    response to the regulations set by policy but also based

    upon their understanding of market forces and market


    This combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis is particularly useful

    for developing concepts for brand elevation and distinction of hospitality

    brands within an increasingly competitive market. In 2010, Relactions was

    named a nalist for the Best Tourism Website at the 2010 Italian Web Awards

    for their production of the Baglioni Hotels Group web site.

    Forma Urbis

    Founded by Fabio Carrera and Alberto Gallo, Forma Urbis develops urban

    information systems for use by the city of Venice to manage the unique

    infrastructure of the historic city. These systems enable and enhance thedelivery of basic city services as well as the management of urban systems,

    such as the transportation of goods and people within the Venetian lagoon.

    The rms innovative use of geographic information systems (GIS) as a basis

    for developing and managing geocoded data sets, makes it possible to overlay

    multiple types of data for display. Such digital map-based formats also make

    it possible to perform both quantitative and well as qualitative analysis, with

    greater ease in changing the scale at which data is analyzed.33

    The delivery process of Forma Urbis entails designing ways to collect

    pertinent data, documenting and utilizing place knowledge about the urban

    environment. This includes collecting embedded information, such as the

    record of how wave action has effected building foundations in the historic

    center, or what the conditions of the citys sewer system reect about the

    history of canal maintenance. Their work also involves the preservation of

    formal accrued knowledge, such as in producing a digitization plan for the

    Venetian archives and the using informal accrued knowledge, facilitated by

    spatial analysis mapping techniques, to inform management of public space

    usage by constituent groups. Carrera describes the conceptual basis for

    33 Notably, the Venetian Republics maritime activity and the citys printing industrymade it an important map making center as early as the late 15th century. The Archivesof Venice preserve an impressive map collection.

    Fig. 12. A screen shot of the Relactions website

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    much of this work in his doctoral dissertation, City Knowledge: an Emergent

    Information Infrastructure for Sustainable Urban Maintenance, Management and

    Planning(MIT, 2004).

    As professor at the Worcester Polytechnics Institute and founder of

    their Venice Project Center, Carrera has directed teams of students and

    volunteers in research project design, data collection and analysis for new

    urban information systems. In part due to the capacity to assemble large

    project teams, Forma Urbis has been able to beta test diverse methods of

    data collection, many of which involve documentation of real time events.

    The emphasis on collection and analysis of real time data for use in the

    management of cities has tremendous implications for urban planning (see

    Figure 12). While the approach may seem especially important in a city like

    Venice where the number of people in the city shifts dramatically depending

    upon the season and the when major events take place managing the ow ofpeople in the urban environment and the infrastructure to support activities

    such as transportation and security is applicable to cities throughout the

    world. It may be particularly applicable for the emerging megacities that will

    require, extremely sophisticated resource management systems.

    Among the seven rms proled in these case studies, no rm exists purely

    within knowledge-transferring or the information-driven category; these

    are not mutually exclusive but instead represent part of the spectrum of

    activities present within the historic center today. It is important to note

    the degree to which each of these rms is exible and adaptable. With the

    exception of perhaps Ski Stradivarius, all could be described as providing morethan one key product or service.

    Relactions, Forma Urbis and Studio Camuffo in particular can be understood

    as especially engaged in and responsive to the complex web of problems and

    opportunities in the historic city today. Their work produces information and

    knowledge-building that can directly impact the management of the urban

    environment, the urban experience, and the economy of Venice. In that sense,

    their productive contribution in Venice is particularly iterative and also rich

    with potential. The newly elected mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu,

    observed a similar scenario in regard to innovation in a challenged city:

    New Orleans is this nations most immediate laboratory for innovation

    and democracy that this country has seen in a very long time, because were

    the only ones that were completely destroyed, so were having to rebuild

    the fabric of our lives. We can test new ideas to see if they work, and they can

    be scaled to success in other cities across every sector of government.34

    34 Glove,Lloyd.MitchLandrieusToughChallenges.TheDailyBeast,rstpublished Agust 16, 2010.


    Fig. 12. A map documenting permitted use of

    public space in Venice

    Source: Forma Urbis web site

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    2) Where do knowledge frms locate?

    Knowledge rms are distributed throughout the historic

    center. I expected that the rms proled in this study might all locate in the

    Dorsoduro neighborhood; it is home to a number of university departments,

    offers close proximity to the train station and car park and has a vibrantcharacter that often described as less touristy than the neighborhood of San

    Marco or the more central parts of the Cannaregio neighborhood. Instead,

    I found that the physical distribution of the case studies is not limited to any

    particular neighborhood, suggesting that all neighborhoods are potentially

    suitable for these rms (see Figure 13).

    There appears to be a correlation between the locations of rms and primary

    circulation pathways / major circulation nodes. Five of the seven rms are

    located within areas of high tourist activity, but can be described as once

    removed from a primary route, either in a location on a side street with

    little or no visible presence from the street, or on the second oor of a

    building. This is especially the case for rms that draw information/data (or

    customers) from the ow of tourists, an indication of the symbiotic nature of

    the relationship between these rms and tourist activity within the city.

    The location choice of knowledge-transferring rms is more

    directly based on proximity to physical resources (used in

    the input process). The activities that take place at the Ski Stradivarius

    production facility on Giudecca and Vento di Venezia on La Certosa are based

    on proximity to pre- existing physical resources (harbor, wood stockpile) and

    Fig. 13. Locations of knowledge rms in

    relationship to preferred routes through

    Venice. (Open circles represent production

    facilities or related businesses.)

    Source: Routes overlay map sourced from

    the Venice Report, p. 40; generated by COSES.

    Base map generated by author from multipledata sources.

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    require larger areas of space for work. And yet, these locations are still easily

    reachable from the most central part of the historic city by private boat or

    by water bus. I Tre Mercanti and, to a lesser degree, Studio Bressanello, are

    the only two rms whose locations are (partially) explained by a desire tobe exposed to heavy foot trafc and to assert a strong visual and physical

    presence for the purpose of attracting customers.

    Studio Camuffos location is a result of the rms participation in the Venice

    District for Innovation business incubator program, which makes reduced rent

    ofce space available in the Ex Cnomv building. 35

    Density and transit create options for knowledge workers,

    allowing location choice to be determined by other factors.

    Firms that have even less of a need for production space or reliance upon

    inventory, such as those in the information-driven category appear to berelying even more heavily on other factors, including lease cost and the desire

    to be in a mixed-use area in making their location selections.

    Most of the individuals I interviewed cited the need to be located convenient

    to transportation, including Marco Polo airport, reachable from the historic

    center by water taxi and public transit. These ndings demonstrate that what

    denes convenient is an extremely relative concept. Locating in a walkable,

    small dense urban environment that offers a variety of transportation options

    means that no location is ever very far from primary circulation paths and

    transit nodes. This partially explains why rms are not clustered around the

    train station or car park, or even close to major water bus stops. Becauseof the combination of density and relatively predictable transit options, it is

    possible to reach almost any location in the historic center from any other

    location (or from Mestre), within a half an hour. Though events of high water

    infrequently require persons to seek alternate routes, the near car-free nature

    of Venice means that within-city commuters do not suffer from automobile

    trafc delays as they do in other cities. Fabio Bressanello explained that he

    knows reliably, within a few minutes, how long it takes to get anywhere in the

    city, making Venice a very easy city to work from.36

    Firm locations show little direct competition with tourist-

    oriented commercial businesses for storefront space.

    Rather, many rms showed a preference for conversion of store rooms

    commonly found on the ground oor of Venetian buildings or modest

    35 The rehabilitation of the Cnomv building was sponsored by the City of Veniceas part of the Venice District for Innovation business incubator program. It was funded

    through money from the European Fund for Regional Development and the Special Lawfor Venice. The project was realized through the Development Plan for the Venice City

    Center, approved in 1999. Source: Comune di Venezia, Venice District for Innovation


    36 Interview with Fabio Bressanello, January 20, 2010.

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    storefronts, thereby avoiding competition with tourist-oriented business and

    cost premiums for high demand spaces.

    I Tre Mercanti, located in a storefront in the San Marco neighborhood, is

    the only case that occupies what might be considered prime real estate for

    tourist-oriented stores, such as glass or mask shops. This location choicemakes sense, given that I Tre Mercanti is a direct participant in the tourism


    The location of Bressanello Art Studio provides an interesting example of

    building use conversion (see Figure 14). Originally located on a side street

    off of Campo San Barnaba in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, Bressanello Art

    Studio now occupies a more prominent ground oor location along Rio de

    San Barnaba just a few steps from Campo San Barnaba. The space, a modest

    commercial storefront, is owned by and was last used as a storeroom for

    produce by the family of fruit and vegetable vendors who operate a market

    barge on Rio de San Barnaba. With minimal improvement to the space mostly in the form of lighting Mr. Bressanello converted the space into one

    that functions for digital photo editing, digital printing, framing, and display of

    his work. The improvements and creative use of space may mean that it is

    now seen as desirable for more tourist-oriented commerce, but this was not

    the case before Mr. Bressanello occupied the space.

    Knowledge rms require little physical space.

    The physical space used by these rms varied; most were between 200 and

    400 square feet. Their requirements are modest for a number of reasons. For

    one, rms can rely more heavily on the real estate available to them in the

    Fig. 14. Mr. Bressanello, standing next to

    his primary piece of production equipment,

    a large format digital printer (left); the

    rehabilitated storefront (right).

    Source: photos by author.

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    virtual realm as well as the speed of communication through virtual networks.

    In the case of I Tre Mercanti, Studio Bressanello and Ski Stradivarius, each

    has found a way to carry only a small or reduced inventory; in the case ofForma Urbis (as well as Relactions and Studio Camuffo both of which are

    on the second oor), reduction in size and increasing portability of computer

    equipment increases options for space utilization. This conditions in turn

    decrease the need to transport physical goods (raw materials, merchandise,

    equipment and supplies) to or from the rms location. Mr. Bressanello

    explained that he orders frames from a framer in Venice. (The making of

    picture frames is another of Venices still active, recognized historic industries.)

    When he runs out of his limited supply, he simply calls the framer, who

    delivers the frames by boat, directly to his door, usually within a days time.

    Knowledge rms are a good t for Venices ground oorspaces, even those susceptible to high water. In no case was the

    threat of high water a factor in choosing not to locate on the ground oor.

    The use of ground oor space by these rms is particularly important in

    reference to the ndings of the 1969 UNESCO report as well as subsequent

    policy proposals, some of which have in fact suggested that ground oor

    spaces be abandoned.

    In 1995, the city resumed a systematic schedule of canal dredging, a practice

    rst initiated under the Venetian Republic, but undertaken only intermittently

    over the last two centuries. This maintenance practice allows for access to

    building foundations for repair; removal of silt and debris ensures efcient

    ow of water in and out of canals, critical not only for boat access within

    the city but also for managing the tidal ow, especially when high water

    occurs. Although the canal dredging is critical, this physical improvement to

    infrastructure does not, alone, explain why it has been possible to reclaim

    some ground oor space. In fact, concurrent with improvements within the

    historic center, other factors within the lagoon and the broader environment

    have actually resulted in an increase in the frequency and intensity of high

    water in recent decades. Yet, the threat of high water is not keeping rms

    from locating in ground oor spaces, in part because digital communication

    technology is now allowing people to be more prepared for high water events.

    In 1980 the city created the Centro Previsioni e Segnalazioni Maree (CPSM)

    as a clearinghouse for preparedness information and notication about

    high water.37 The CPSM, in coordination with other research entities, has

    developed increasingly reliable high water forecasting. Since December 2007,

    this data has been used as the