Both Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright can be found on a lengthy list of architects who have tried to build in Venice and lost their battle to conservationists. However, OMA has broke through this barrier, as the practice was recently approved - after five years pending - to go forth with a renovation project of a 16th century palazzo for the fashion retailer Benetton near the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal.
More details and statements from the architect after the break...
"The most visible interventions have been changed but the rest stays the same," stated project architect Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli in reference to the changes that were made due to pressure from staunchly opposed conservative organizations.
Among them is the heritage group Italia Nostra, who last year initiated a lawsuit for “serious damage to the building’s physical integrity and historical identity.” Despite their efforts, the project has been approved and is backed by Mayor Giorgio Orsoni.
As Orsoni believes, OMA's intervention would help in the “rebirth” of the city. The idea is that the 10,000 square meters of Benetton facilities will include a cultural space for local artists and producers that could be used in events like the Venice Biennale of Art and Architecture or Film Festival.
“It will not be a conventional department store but will be an extra venue for the city,” declares Pestellini.
The controversy, however, continues with individuals and groups from around the world criticizing the decision of the city to allow large advertising posters - and projects like OMA - to help fund heritage restoration and protection.