Palazzo Grassi
Having been selected by an international competition as the designer of the Foundation Francois Pinault pour l'Art Contemporain, to be built on the Seguin Island in Paris, we had reached the level of construction documents when we recieved word from Mr Pinault that the project had been abandoned due to problems with adjusting to infrastructural developments for the project site on the Island. Two weeks later, we again recieved an unexpected message from Mr Pinault. Shifting the site to Venice, Italy, he commisioned us to design a new modern art museum. Although there was no change in the function as a modern art museum, the architectural conditions were entirely different. As opposed to the redevelopment of the Seguin Island for the Foundation Francois Pinault pour l'Art Contemporain, this project was premised on the renovation and reuse of an old mansion called the Palazzo Grassi. Located along the Grand Canal close to Piazza San Marco, the Palazzo Grassi is a neoclassical building that was designed by Giorgio Massari in the second half of the 18th century, and since 1983 it has been used as an exhibition space.
In Italy, there are stringent regulations about the preservation of historical structures. Naturally, this applies to facades as they affect the urban scenery, but we also recieved detailed guidance from the public administration about the interior renovations. Given such a situation, our plan to make a white-cube like space for a modern art museum within an existing historical building could be called, in a sense, contradictory. However, it is possible that this contradiction will produce a space with a vitality that mutually enhances old and new. I have previously attempted the theme of "spaces with a dialogue between old and new", but in the renovation scheme for the Palazzo Grassi I focused on more delicate details.
First of all, the building was completely restored to its initial appearance. Having done that, we studied plan layouts with nested exhibition spaces enclosed by white walls. At that point, we were not concerned with creating a self-contained white-cube exhibition space, but focused more on investigating details that would take advantage of the spatial essence of the existing building surrounding them.
The ornamentation on the walls and ceilings of the old building may be glimpsed through gaps in the white walls, the glittering of the water in the Grand Canal may be sensed through a filter, and the central gallery space exploits the unaltered soft light of the atrium. With the intention of making places filled with surprise and discovery, art seems to abruptly appear in this spatial sequence of a dialogue between old and new.


7 photos and 5 drawings