LOCATION: Venice, Italy, EU
OLD USE: Custom house
NEW USE: Museum
For centuries this rusticated-stone and plaster-on-brick building served as the customs house in Venice, Italy. The 17th-century building, located at the eastern tip of Dorsoduro Island and next to Longhena’s domed basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, was shut down and left vacant in the 1970s.
French billionaire and art collector François Pinault won the bid to convert the building into a contemporary art museum. Pinault runs the retail company PPR and holding company Artemis S.A. Both companies own or have owned Gucci, Converse shoes, Samsonite luggage, Vail Ski Resort, and Christie’s auction house. He also owns (through his foundation) Palazzo Grassi in Venice, and has one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary art (nearly 2,500 pieces).
Japanese architect Tadao Ando was selected by Pinault to bring the conversion to life. Known for his creative use of natural light and for architecture that follows the natural forms of the landscape, Ando’s approach to architecture was once categorized as critical regionalism. He has focused his work in Japan, but has a number of projects in Europe as well as the United States. He previously worked with Pinault to revamp Palazzo Grassi.
The adaptive reuse project took 14 months to complete and has created a lasting impression on this significant site in Venice. While the building itself is triangular and matching the shape of the island, the interior has been divided up into long rectangles for a number of different galleries. The facade was completely restored and all openings were replaced. A protective shell at the building’s base was installed to secure it against high water up to nearly 7 feet, and the brick foundation was restored/replaced. Skylights were installed while the wooden roof trusses were recovered and the roof itself fully restored. The $28 million project was opened on June 6, 2009.
Images courtesy of Architectural Record.