City of Bridges to get its first escalators
Rem Koolhaas plans to turn a 16th-century Venetian building into a shopping centre cum cultural space
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 03 October 2010
LONDON. One of Venice’s most important historic buildings is set to be turned into a department store with spaces for exhibitions and other events. Dutch superstar architect Rem Koolhaas has been commissioned by the building’s owners, the retail giant Benetton, to transform the 16th-century Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which lies adjacent to the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal.
“The Fondaco is a private project whose architectural and functional aspects were established in agreement not only with the city council but also with the Veneto regional assembly. The building cost around €50m and the renovation will cost about €20m,” said a spokeswoman for OMA, Koolhaas’ architecture practice, who added that the project's schedule is dependent on the public authorities’ approval process.
“OMA’s design allows for areas dedicated to both commercial space and cultural activities managed in co-operation with the relevant public bodies. The building’s courtyard and terrace levels will be dedicated to this cultural programme and open to the public,” she said. Remaining levels will be occupied by “commercially oriented activities”.
These two domains will be connected, with access to the venue’s cultural activities which will be available outside of the department store’s opening hours. “Koolhaas’ plans look great, once people get over the shock that Venice will get its first escalators to take shoppers to the first floor,” commented an unnamed Venetian heritage expert. “We envisage activities relevant to both contemporary art and the culture of Venice. As an example, frescoes by Giorgione and Titian, which originally covered the outer facades and the interior facade of the courtyard, will generate new decorative motifs, combining fashion campaigns with traditional Venetian imagery,” added the spokeswoman.
OMA, meanwhile, is one of three candidates shortlisted to design a master plan for the 40-hectare West Kowloon Cultural District development in Hong Kong, along with the London-based practice Foster and Partners and the Hong Kong company Rocco Design Architects.
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