Going, Going, Gon-dola! Venice’s Iconic Transportation Gets Futuristic Re-Design

Dream of Winter Gondola rendering
Dream of Winter Gondola rendering. Image courtesy of Ca' Foscari University of Venice's Hub of Strategy Innovation.

It’s like a travel special called ‘The Jetsons go to Venice.’

Perhaps only a modern design giant like the French master Philippe Starck would dare to re-imagine one of the most cherished symbols of one of the world’s favourite travel destinations.

Venice’s gondolas have been around for over a thousand years, first mentioned by name in 1094. While their number has dropped from the thousands to the hundreds, they remain a can’t-miss experience on the canals of Venice.

Now, Venice’s iconic ride may be about to change forever.

As part of a program to encourage designers in Venice to “use design as a tool for innovation” as design publication Dezeen says, Starck, who has lived on the Venetian island of Burano for half a century, drew up the “Dream of Winter Gondola.”

A 3D drawing of the space-age style gondola is being exhibited at Ca' Foscari University of Venice's Hub of Strategy Innovation.

Envisioned as “a symbol for the future of Venice,” Starck’s ‘gondola 2.0’ would be made of laminated, compressed bamboo for strength and durability in the water. A small, enclosed room at the centre of the watercraft would protect passengers in winter months (although it looks like an airtight space ship to me).

Dream of Winter Gondola rendering
Dream of Winter Gondola rendering. Image courtesy of Ca' Foscari University of Venice's Hub of Strategy Innovation.

It’s still propelled by a single person standing rowing behind the passengers, but the gondolier is assisted by a mini, solar-powered electric turbine and even a solar-powered gyroscope to compensate for “natural twist at the hull of the gondola.”

"It is the same untouchable icon, the same iconic silhouette but washed by the time and deeply, structurally modern by the technology," said Starck.

But space-age though the design appears, no one is going to be ‘beaming anyone up’ at the Bridge of Sighs. For now, the gondola of the future remains a concept only, and no one is saying, ‘Arrivederci’ to Venice’s millennium-old traditional gondolas just yet.

"I have a lot of admiration and respect for the gondola, one of the most complex boats in the world as its design is completely asymmetric but nevertheless its weight is perfectly balanced and can go straight even in the hardest conditions," Starck said.

Lynn Elmhirst


With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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