Remodelling an ancient institution at the foot of the Rialto Bridge
The heart of Venice is filled with expensive boutiques, and has always been so. But the opportunity for remodelling these is limited due to the historical significance of the architecture, even when this historicity is not quite as it seems. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi is an ancient institution founded in 1228 to house German merchants in the city; its current building at the foot of the Rialto Bridge was erected in 1506, but it was gutted under Mussolini and the structure replaced with concrete. Nevertheless, it is protected as a monument. So when OMA was tasked with transforming the building into a department store, the practice chose a series of steroidally Scarpa-esque interventions to highlight this history of modifications, adding dramatic red escalators and suspending a glass and steel floor above the central courtyard. They opened the latter to the street, and, together with a new wooden roof terrace, this provides much-needed public space to the overcrowded locale.
Fondaco dei tedeschi drawings