First constructed in 1228, and located at the foot of the Rialto Bridge across from the fish market, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi is one of Venice’s largest and most recognizable buildings. It was used as a trading post for German merchants, a customs house under Napoleon, and a post office under Mussolini. The Fondaco (Arabic origin meaning of “store-house”) stands as a mute witness of the Venetian mercantile era.
The famous dutch architecture studio OMA, founded by Rem Koolhaas, modernizes on a base of strategic interventions and vertical distribution devices that support the new program and define a sequence of public spaces and paths. Each intervention is conceived as an excavation through the existing mass, liberating new perspectives and unveiling the real substance of the building to its visitors, as an accumulation of authenticities.
New entrances to the building with existing entrances into the courtyard, which have been retained; escalators have been added to create a new public route through the building; rooms are consolidated in a way that respects the original sequences; crucial historic elements like the corner rooms remain untouched. Some aspects of the building, lost for centuries, have been resurrected: the walls of the gallerias will once again become a surface for frescoes, reappearing in contemporary form.
The Fondaco dei Tedeschi will unlock its potential as a major destination and vantage point for tourists and Venetians alike; a contemporary urban department store staging a diverse range of activities, from shopping to cultural events, social gatherings and everyday life. OMA’s renovation, both subtle and ambitious, continues the Fondaco’s tradition of vitality and adaptation, its preservation yet another chapter of the building’s illustrious and multi-layered history. It avoids nostalgic reconstructions of the past and it demystifies the ‘sacred’ image of a historical building.
For further information: http://oma.eu/projects/il-fondaco-dei-tedeschi
images and text © Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) http://oma.eu/