Project description of il Fondaco dei Tedeschi by OMA:
The Fondaco dei Tedeschi, formerly a trading post for German merchants, then a customs house, now stands as a muted icon of the Venetian mercantile era. First constructed in 1228, twice destroyed by fire and rebuilt (in its current form in 1506), then subject to a series of major architectural interventions to accommodate new uses (towers removed, courtyard covered with glass, structure rebuilt again…), the Fondaco has constantly reshaped itself: its preservation is a history of change. The current role as a post office has diminished in tandem with the native population of Venice, leaving the bulk of the building unused for the first time in centuries. The latest evolution of the Fondaco will create a thriving contemporary trading post in the form of a culturally-programmed department store. The courtyard will be used for events, art, and cinema, reactivating the historic Venetian connection between culture and commerce. The renovated top floor becomes a unique public space: two sides of the existing roof will be removed, leaving the building’s profile intact and creating a terrace with views of the Grand Canal and Rialto, and offering a rare vantage point on Venice’s dense roofscape.
Project: il Fondaco dei Tedeschi
Status: Preliminary design
Location: Venice, Italy
Program: Department store / Cultural facility
Credits: Rem Koolhaas, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Miriam Roure Parera, Agustin Perez-Torres, Andreas Kofler, Marco De Battista, Carlos Pena
OMA to restore Fondaco dei Tedeschi, landmark building in Venice
Venice, 27 August, 2010 – OMA today unveils its design for the major restoration and redefinition of one of Venice’s largest and most iconic buildings: the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a property owned by the Benetton family, adjacent to the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal.
First constructed in 1228, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi began as a trading post for German merchants and became a customs house under Napoleon in 1806. Its use as a post office has diminished in recent years, leaving much of the building unused and inaccessible for the first time in centuries. The latest evolution of the Fondaco will create a thriving contemporary trading post in the form of a culturally-programmed department store.
The Fondaco dei Tedeschi, twice rebuilt completely, with its current configuration dating from 1506, has undergone many radical transformations since then. To accommodate new uses, its towers have been removed, courtyard covered with glass, structure rebuilt, façade restored, and new windows added, among many other interventions. For the Fondaco, preservation is a history of change.
Commissioned by the Benetton family’s property group, OMA has designed a range of architectural modifications and developed a cultural program to reactivate the building as a vital public space, from top to bottom. A terrace with rare views of the Grand Canal will be created by removing two sides of the existing roof, leaving the building’s profile intact while unlocking exciting potential for the Fondaco dei Tedeschi as a major destination and vantage point for tourists and Venetians alike. The rooftop, together with the courtyard below, will become a public venue for events including exhibitions and film screenings. A year-round cultural program will be aimed at locals and tourists – the 20 million who visit the city each year, as well as the 900,000 who come specifically for the Biennales and festivals.
The new Fondaco dei Tedeschi, as both prestige department store and public event space, aims to reestablish the historic Venetian connection between culture and commerce. The Benetton family has always demonstrated this twin spirit, uniting the innovative and international with profoundly local, Venetian roots.
New entrances to the Fondaco will be created from the Campo San Bartolomeo and the Rialto to encourage circulation, escalators will be added to create a new public route through the building, rooms will be consolidated in a way that respects the Fondaco’s structure, while crucial historic elements like the corner rooms will remain untouched. Historic aspects of the building, lost for centuries, will be resurrected: the walls of the gallerias will once again become a surface for frescoes, reappearing in a contemporary form.
OMA’s renovation scheme – both ambitious and subtle – continues the Fondaco dei Tedeschi’s tradition of vitality and adaptation. Venice will acquire a landmark department store that will become a shared civic facility and a crucial element in the cultural fabric of the city.