The 7000 sq-m lifestyle department store is situated on the Grand Canal, close to the famous Rialto Bridge in a building that was once a market place for German merchants. Rem Kolhaas and his team at OMA have meticulously restored and transformed the historic space to create a new shopping destination for the Italian city, and the first DFS Group store in Europe. Housing a large selection of both local and international fashion brands and fine foods, T Fondaco dei Tedeschi will also host a series of events and exhibitions that make it a new cultural hub for the city.
The project – composed of both architecture and programming – opens the courtyard piazza to pedestrians, maintaining its historical role of covered urban 'campo'. The new rooftop is created by the renovation of the existing 19th Century pavilion, standing over a new steel and glass floor which hovers above the central courtyard, and by the addition of a large wooden terrace with spectacular views over the city. The rooftop, together with the courtyard below, will become public venues, open to the city and accessible at all times.
New entrances to the building were created from the Campo San Bartolomeo and the Rialto; existing entrances into the courtyard, used by locals as a shortcut, have been retained; escalators have been added to create a new public route through the building; rooms are consolidated in a way that respects the original sequences; crucial historic elements like the corner rooms remain untouched. Some aspects of the building, lost for centuries, have been resurrected: the walls of the gallerias will once again become a surface for frescoes, reappearing in contemporary form.
Inside, interior design was completed by architect Jamie Fobert who has celebrated the traditional textures and shapes of Venice, with both modern and original elements as the iconic red-hued escalator have been inserted as well.being utilised throughout. The result is a building that respects its history while existing seamlessly in the modern day.