A rendering of OMA's redesign of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi.


One of Venice’s most iconic buildings, 16th century Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, has been restored thanks to the Benetton family.

In 2009, the Benetton family commissioned OMA to transform the building at the foot of the Rialto Bridge into a department store. Hong Kong-based DFS is now leasing the space, which has been designed for shopping and cultural events, as well as a public path and space for more routine everyday activities.

Originally built in 1228 across from the fish market, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi has had a series of incarnations — at one time serving as a trading post for German mer­chants, then a customs house under Napoleon, and a post office under Mussolini. Giovanni Antonio Canal, the artist better known as Canaletto, was among the Masters who immortalized the building in his work.

The Italian Renaissance building was twice destroyed by fire and was rebuilt in its current form in 1506. It was reworked in the 18th century and then again more extensively in the 20th century to house the main post office under the Italian dictator’s Fascist regime. In the Thirties, the four-floor building was almost entirely rebuilt with modern concrete technology.

During its five-century history, towers were removed, the courtyard was covered with glass and windows were added to the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. In 1987, the structure was legally classified as a “monument,” a moniker that prohibited almost any change.

OMA’s renovation consists of a sequence of public spaces and paths. The design firm’s project has opened up the courtyard piazza to pedestrians, and the new rooftop has been created by the renovation of the existing 19th century pavilion, standing over a new steel and glass floor which hovers above the central courtyard. In addition, there is a large wooden terrace with sweeping views of Venice. The rooftop and the courtyard will acts as public venues that will be open to the public 24-7.

To facilitate a steady stream of visitors, new entrances to the building have been created from the Campo San Bartolomeo and the Rialto. Existing entrances into the courtyard, which many locals like to use as a shortcut, remain in place and escalators have been added for a new public route through the building. Rooms have been consolidated with respect to Fondaco dei Tedeschi’s original sequences. While some integral historic components like the corner rooms remain untouched, other aspects that were lost for centuries have been renewed. The galleria’s walls will be used for frescoes, but reappearing as contemporary form. Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Rem Koolhaas and Silvia Sandor headed up the project.

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