Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Fiberglass Controversy

Recently someone in the Veneto made statements about wanting to build gondolas out of fiberglass.
This hit the paper and has brought a lot of people's opinions out.
Nereo Zane has just posted a piece on his blog about it.
Check out "Gondole de Plastica".
This reminds me a bit of something that flew around the gondola world some years ago - someone was planning to produce forcole made by a computer-aided-machine. In the end, I don't think it happened.

Here in America we have a number of gondolas made from fiberglass, but this is Venice we're talking about now. In my opinion, it's ok to have fake trolley cars in other cities, but in San Francisco we expect to see the real thing - the same should be true for the gondola.


Tamás said...

> someone was planning to produce forcole made by a computer-aided-machine

What about hand-made carbon fiber forcolas?

Considering the kind of competition seen in Regata Storica, maybe some rowers would accept a "devil's black forcola" to win. The tremendous strenght, flexibility and lightness of carbon-carbon composite structures definitely feels like an advantage.

Bicycles progressed from wood to carbon fiber in 150 years, although the kind of cheating scandals which regularly rock Tour de France make me wonder if chasing performance at all costs is worth it?

Bepi Venexiano said...

Sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it is made in Champagne, France.
Unless a gondola is made in Venice of traditional materials than it should not be called a gondola, maybe we could call them Non-dolas.

Sean Jamieson said...

Oooh...this is a good one. First of all, I have to say, I'm on the fence on this one.

So, let me think about this. What is the real thing? What makes it a gondola? Is it the construction method, construction materials, or the construction location that makes it a gondola.

If Roberto Tramontin built a boat in Kansas, exactly like if he was in Venice, and then shipped it to Venice, would it be a gondola?

If materials are the issue then the question is what materials are traditional? If a gondola was built in Venice and the builder used silicon bronze fasteners instead of nails, is it still a gondola? Douglas fir instead of spruce, still a gondola? If the seats are made of foam instead of straw, still a gondola? The design and materials have evolved over time. Should the evolution stop?

Bepi Venexiano said...

That's some fence your sitting on.

What if Champagne bottles were shipped from China but filled in France?

The question for me is: Do I want to see the traditional industry preserved? The Venetian methods are unique, ancient, and exceptional. Once traditions like this are broken they are gone forever.
Veneto Libero!!

staff said...

Hi all,
just to say that Ente Gondola and "El Félze" are working on a document that will define every detail on how to build a gondola.
In my opinion only the boat built in Venice can be called "gondola" all the others are gondola-like boats. Cheers, Nereo

Tamás said...

> Staff: just to say that Ente Gondola and "El Félze" are working on a document that will define every detail on how to build a gondola.

I believe that is impossible. Gondolas are made personalized to the rower and every venetian shipwright has slightly different taste with regards to curves, measurements and methods of wood bending.

A very strict definition of everything would probably exclude some genuine builds from the category of gondolas. "The harder you grip, the less remains in your grasp" or so, Obi-wan Kenobi told Darth Vader.

Maybe the gondola community should look at the way church canon law separates genuine faith from heresy. They check the honesty of intent, the presence of the most essential required forms and the presence of some "apostolic" succession to determine if someone was legitimately made a priest.

It is not necessary to regulate absolutely everything to stay faithful if there is some connection among the generations of gondola builders.

staff said...

Mr. Tamas: "Ente Gondola" and "El Féelze" are working on a document to fix the guide lines on how a gondola must be built. If you believe to contribute just tell them! ahahahahah

Tamás said...

Nereo, I'm just saying: when new regulations are being made in Europe, people start to get worried.

Often the regulations are made to extend the reach of bureaucracy, so the official apparatus can justify its own existance or even worse, regulations are made to further the interest of a particular lobby group.

For example a logging and wood industry tycoon could influence the exacting gondola regulations, so that only his forests can supply planks to squeri in the future, leading to inflated prices.

Or the gondola could be defined as a "curved vessel propelled by a single oarsman" to exclude further lady incursion into the sacred profession and whatever such trickery that can fit on paper.

If someone wanted to develop and sell an inflatable "zodiac type" rubber gondola for recreational use, the Ente could use their "brandname protection" regulation to get the EU ban such an economic venture.