When it comes to building an ultramodern transportation hub in Venice—one of Europe's most beautiful cities—the size or height of train platforms, bus transfer facilities, and retail shop are not the most important factors. It’s the ability to balance the cost of constructing the project with its ability to generate a profit.
"It is all about creating something that can make money for the developers while adding to the city’s atmosphere," says Kyle Bushey, '11, who was part of a group of students and faculty from three colleges working together to rethink Venice’s transportation hub.
Led by architecture professor Michele Chiuini, the interdisciplinary team of students from the College of Architecture and Planning, Miller College of Business, and College of Applied Sciences and Technology collaborated to devise a solution for Pizzale Roma, which has been developed during the 20th century without a clear master plan.
"Our job is to create a beautiful, creative, and profitable gateway to Venice that will allow more tourists to come in and enjoy the city," says Bushey, a finance major from Richmond, Indiana. “The hub will be the first introduction many tourists will have to a historic city, which is counting on us to come up with some ideas that will leave visitors breathless."
Change of Plans
Students visited Venice to gather firsthand information and documentation about the site, analyze various facets of the existing hub, and study the city to better understand its culture, urban form, planning, and construction practices. Chiuini says the project, conducted in conjunction with Venice city government officials, also allowed students to better understand urban development and infrastructural issues on a global scale.
However, city officials introduced an unexpected challenge. Instead of developers having complete control of the project and owning the property, the city prefers to have final approval over any development and then retain the project and the land after 30 years—all without fronting any funds.
"We spent several weeks coming up with various financing methods commonly used in the U.S. but went to Venice and found out the city wanted the developers to build the project and then simply give everything back," Bushey says. "City leaders do not want any risks, which is common in Italy but unheard of in our country. We had to do a 180 and come up with new financing and completely revamp the project to make sure it makes money. We learned a great deal about marketing on this project, because it has to be attractive to potential developers who are taking all the risk."
Variety of Skills
Chiuini believes melding the talents of students from three colleges led to stronger teams.
"This is a very complex project that could take several years to complete," he says. "The students have worked together to devise ways to reduce congestion, build new facilities, and all the while, maintain the beauty of the city."
In the end, Bushey says, the Venice project prepared him for a potential job in investment banking by improving his financial planning skills as well as developing his ability to work within a team.
"We were thrown together as a team with everyone bringing special skills. It was a new experience for most of us, but I believe it made each of us more well rounded and prepared us for the job market. It certainly opened my eyes about how teams work together and the types of problems you may encounter when working on an international project."
College of Applied Science and Technology
College of Architecture and Planning
Miller College of Business
Finance and Insurance