Architect David Chipperfield is set to revive the vast Procuratie Vecchie – Venice’s longest building.
The 16th-century edifice on St Mark’s Square – dubbed ‘the drawing room of Europe’ by Napoleon – has a 500 sq ft façade. It’s never been open to the public before, but Chipperfield will leads its transformation into a hub for public arts exhibitions and a philanthropic organisation, ‘The Human Safety Net’, which supports vulnerable people, including refugees.
Says David Chipperfield: ‘This is a building with a monumental presence in a monumental square which the whole world loves. It is part of the only big civic space in Venice. It’s got an amazingly theatrical presence.’
Procuratie Vecchie’s refurbishment is scheduled for completion in 2020, and the project will open up previously hidden courtyards, as well as a secret passageway from St Mark’s Square to the dilapidated Royal Gardens on the banks of the Grand Canal. It will be revived with a restored pergola and orangerie. A drawbridge will also be installed which can be raised to let gondolas past.
The restoration project is being funded by insurance company Assicurazioni Generali, which previously occupied the four-storey building, originally designed to house the governors of Venice. Its ground floor arcade features 52 stone arches, while rooms are decorated with ornate frescoes.
‘The idea is to create something in Venice that doesn’t rely on tourism,’ said Assicurazioni Generali’s representative Matthew Newton. ‘This building has been closed to visitors for more than 500 years. From the upper floors you will be able to see the lagoon. It will open up new vistas on Venice.’
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