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Relevance of Geotechnical Engineering for the Conservation of the Historic City of Venice


Event details

Date and time 07.12.2018 12:1513:00  
Place and room
Speaker Prof. Paolo Simonini, Department ICEA, University of Padova, Italy
Category Conferences - Seminars

The worldwide-known historic city of Venice continues to preserve a rather precarious equilibrium with the surrounding lagoon, although the margin of security is being eroded at an ever increasing rate. The rate of environmental deterioration is being accelerated by the increasing frequency of the flooding of the historic city – referred as to ‘acqua alta’ (i.e. literally ‘high water’) - caused by the natural eustatic rise of the sea level, by natural subsidence and by a regional man-induced subsidence, the latter particularly important between 1946 and 1970.
From the late ‘60, several geotechnical studies on geotechnical were carried out and, to keep under control the evolution of subsidence, a continuous survey activity was at that time initiated and prosecuted up to nowadays.
But the continuous increase of the annual frequency of the city flooding causing additional environmental damages, induced the Italian Government to start with several projects,  the MOSE project - involving the design and construction of movable gates located at the three lagoon inlets, the INSULAE project, namely the artificial elevation of islands, on which the historic buildings are founded, and other smaller projects, such, for instance, improvement of old building foundations,  erosion mitigation intervention in the lagoon including the reinforcement of the existing jetties at the  inlets, fish farm reopening ect.
Starting from the historic subsidence evolution, the seminar will provide a short overview of some relevant geotechnical issues that have been and have to be solved to realize the interventions to protect Venice and the surrounding lagoon from the increasing environmental deterioration.


Paolo Simonini, MSc, PhD, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Padova, Padova, Italy.

1981, Graduation with honors in Civil Engineering (MSc), University of Padova (UNIPD);
1987: Doctoral Degree at the Technical University of Torino in Geotechnical Engineering.
Carrier history:
 1987-89: Teaching assistant at the University of Trento;
1990-1998: Research assistant of Geotechnical Engineering at UNIPD;
1998-2004: Associate Professor at UNIPD;
2005: Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at UNIPD. 
2009-2012: President of the Civil Engineering Council;
2012-2015: President of the School of Engineering, University of Padova.
2015-2018: President of the Italian Academic Society of Geotechnical Engineering
2016-2019: Co-Founder and Vice-President of the Civil and Industrial Safety Engineering Master Course.
2016-2018: President of the National Committee for Professorship Selection.

Focus on recent research: 
Studies on geotechnical engineering for the preservation of historic city of Venice, namely the San Marco Square Project, to protect the most famous island of San Marco against recurrent flooding.
Site testing: Use of CPTU to predict maximum stiffness in soils; Applicability of SCPTU and SDMT to characterize the soils of the Venice Lagoon; CPTU calibration to predicting secondary compressions in sands and silts, MPM numerical modelling of CPTU penetration;
Site monitoring: Use of InSAR to monitor settlements on coastal structures; landslide monitoring and data interpretation, use of optical fibers to monitor subsurface groundwater flows; 

Landslide: Evaluation of impact forces on structures realized to protect against rapid landslide and debris flow with MPM.

Studies on erosion processes and instability of leveee and dams in the Venetian Plain.

Some recent expert activities:
Member of the AGI Committee for standards in site investigation practice and of the AGI-AICAP Committee for standards in ground anchors.
Member of Scientific Council of International Research Society Interpraevent. The Research Society works to set up preventive protection against disasters and supports interdisciplinary research to protect our living space against flooding, debris flow, avalanches and mass movements.

Official member of the Material Point Method Community (Univ. Cambridge, UPC Barcelona, TU Delft, TU Hamburg-Harburg, Deltares; Virginia Tech, UC Berkeley).
Member of the Municipal Committee for the preservation of the Chapel of Scrovegni, the most relevant example of Giotto Painting in Italy.

Practical information

  • Informed public
  • Free


  • Profs. Brice Lecampion & Alexandre Alahi


  • Prof. Lyesse Laloui