OMA to restore 16th century venetian palazzo into department store
OMA to restore 16th century venetian palazzo into department store OMA to restore 16th century venetian palazzo into department store
mar 20, 2013

OMA to restore 16th century venetian palazzo into department store

OMA has unveiled its design for the major restoration and redefinition of one of venice’s largest and most iconic buildings: the fondaco dei tedeschi, 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 re establish 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 site 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 original structure, with crucial historic elements like the corner rooms remaining untouched. the walls of the gallerias will once again become a surface for frescoes, reappearing in a contemporary context.


update: we have updated the original article from august 30th, 2010. when the proposal was first unveiled there was controversy over the plans, as a number of conservation groups including italia nostra had opposed the project, stating that it violates mandatory rights of conservation and that it will completely alter the original structure. however, more than two years later, OMA has been given approval to realize the conversion of the 16th-century palazzo into a combined department store and cultural space, which is projected to be completed within 48 months.

 earlier this year, rem koolhaas was selected to be the curator of the 14th venice architecture biennale (see designboom’s coverage of his appointment here). the dutch architect has selected the theme of ‘fundamentals’ focusing on the histories of architecture. read more on designboom about koolhaas’s visions for the upcoming biennale here.

the site adjacent to rialto bridge in venice, italy image courtesy OMA

a new vista over venice image courtesy OMA

frescoes reappearing in contemporary form image courtesy OMA

view of the courtyard image courtesy OMA

cultural program on the glass roof over the courtyard image courtesy OMA

culture in  the courtyard image courtesy OMA

proposal, courtyard as cinema, il fondaco dei tedeschi, venice, italy image courtesy OMA


at the venice biennale rem koolhaas received the golden lion for lifetime achievement


rem koolhaas receiving the golden lion award for lifetime achievement at the 2010 venice architecture biennale



project info:


program: department store (11,000m2), public space for cultural events: courtyard, rooftop, interior spaces partner in charge: rem koolhaas team leader: ippoliti pestellini laparelli team: marco de battista, andrew chau, andreas kofler, kayoko ota, carlos pena, agustin perez-torres, miriam roure parera



  • It is interesting to see how flat, primitive projects get so much attention among commenters and usually there is no feedback to projects which really have depth. pity.

    internautas says:
  • we can already imagine how ‘found’/historic space functions as exhibition space (ps1, tate, etc.)
    aside from deploying flexible program, a ‘contextual’ glass roof + glass floor, how does this project demonstrate/perform at a level of depth worthy of comment.

    g says:

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