Fondaco dei Tedeschi: from a commercial hub to a luxury department store

Inspirational  /  September 27, 2016

Venice. 1 October 2016 the Fondaco dei Tedeschi will open to the public to show off  its new look, designed by Rem Koolhaas. Here is its story: the journey from commercial hub to big department store and the home of top-quality boutiques.

The Fondaco dei Tedeschi (or “Fontego” in Venetian dialet) is an historical building situated on the Grand Canal, in San Marco square. Built by Venetiansin 1228 to control commercial transactions in Rialto, the Fondaco became the main destination and site of exchange for merchants from Northern Europe.

The original building, destroyed in a fire in January 1505, was entirely restored by Girolamo Tedesco’s project in the three years after the fire.

The facade facing Grand Canal was painted with frescos by Giorgione and his pupil Tiziano. The frescoes were preserved in good condition until at least the eighteenth century, as some reproductions from that time show. Today only a few fragments remain and are in Ca’ d’Oro.


The view of the Grand Canal painted by Canaletto, from which the frescoes on the Fondaco’s facade can be seen. From: Wikipedia

The square building is on 3 levels, has an inner courtyard with a central well, and during the Thirties was covered with a steel and glass skylight. The interiors were decorated with frescoes by great masters like Veronese, Tiziano and Tintorett, although unfortunately the building no longer bears any traces of them.

In more recent times, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi was first a customs office, then later was owned by Poste Italiane until 2008, when Benetton Group purchased it in order to renovate.

The Group commissioned the Dutch office OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) to lead the restoration project, guided by the architecture star Rem Koolhaas, in collaboration with the designers Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli and Silvia Sandor.

The restoration is officially finished and in October this historical palace will open with a new look and a new name: “T – Fontego Dei Tedeschi” will be a big luxury department store, the first DFS Luxury in Europe. The T in the name stands for travel, underlining that the tourist will be the target customer for the new  department store.

The building’s 9000 square metres have been converted into an area boasting several boutiques located on different levels that can be reached via impressive escalators. Two new entrances have been created near Campo San Bortolomeo and Rialto and the roof has been designed to host a large panoramic terrace.

Will it be a success? Does it still have its monumental status? We will just have to wait for next month.


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