Venice – OMA has sensitively converted a 16th-century building next to the city’s famous Rialto Bridge into a department store.
The building, Fondaco dei Tedeschi, is one of Venice’s most important structures. In its long history it has been used as a merchants’ trading post, a customs house and a post office. Now it has been redeveloped as a contemporary department store, but because the building had been granted protected monument status in 1987, any alterations or additions had to be minimal and in keeping with its historic fabric.
The project involved the installation of a steel and glass floor covering the building’s central pavilion to create a new events space, a publicly accessible roof terrace, new entrances and a series of wood-panelled lifts. The 16th-century interior has been augmented with bright red accenting on internal steps, geometric partitions, gold metal cladding and a profusion of mirrors.
OMA described the project as ‘a contemporary urban department store staging a diverse range of activities, from shopping to cultural events, social gatherings and everyday life’.
With department stores increasingly losing customers to online competitors, outlets such as the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Harvey Nichols’ London flagship store and Saint Petersburg’s famous Au Pont Rouge are turning to contemporary designers to give their retail spaces a greater sense of destination.