David Chipperfield to restore historic palace on Venice's Piazza San Marco
British architect David Chipperfield is to carry out major restoration works on the Procuratie Vecchie on Venice's Piazza San Marco, which will see the palace opened to the public for the first time in 500 years.
Due to be completed in 2020, the project will be a multi-million pound undertaking for its owners, the Italian insurance company the Generali Group.
For five centuries the building has been closed to the public, reserved for politicians and royalty. But once David Chipperfield and his studio completes the restoration work, the palace will become a venue for art exhibitions, installations and seminars.
It will also become a hub for the Human Safety Net, a non-profit organisation funded by the Generali Group that supports initiatives including backing refugee-owned start-ups and supporting 30,000 parents who are raising children in poverty.
"I am delighted to be working on this architecturally and socially coherent project, which will convey and connect ideas and people around the world," said David Chipperfield.
"Working closely with Generali, we have a vision to transform the Procuratie Vecchie into a more active and engaged space, which embodies the global mission of The Human Safety Net, while retaining the dignified beauty and history of the buildings."
Built on top of stone arcades in the twelfth century, the Procuratie Vecchie runs along the north side of the iconic central square. At 152 metres long it is Venice's longest building.
The original two-storey structure burnt down and was replaced in the 1530s by a three-storey structure in the early Renaissance classical style.
Once at the heart of Venetian government, the building still has original frescos and ornate ceilings from the days it was used by the nine governors who aided the Doge administer the city-state known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice.
At ground floor, the stone arcades are home to Venice's famous – and expensive – coffee shops, the oldest of which have been in situ since the 18th century.
The restoration will also include opening a hidden passageway between Piazza San Marco and the Royal Gardens. The park on the bank of the Grand Canal has lain abandoned for years but now there are plans to restore a wisteria-covered pergola and plant an orangerie.
The unique location of Venice, a UNESCO World Heritage site, means all building materials will have to be bought in and out by boat along its canals.
"By opening the Procuratie Vecchie to the public for the first time in nearly five centuries, we are creating new and vibrant spaces where people can meet to discuss some of today’s most pressing social and global issues," said Philippe Donnet, CEO of Generali Group.
"David Chipperfield Architects was a natural choice due to his love of Venice and shared vision for an architecturally and socially coherent restoration," he added.
By the time the project is finished, Britain will have left the European Union. Chipperfield has been outspoken in his opposition of Brexit. He called the referendum result a "shocking loss" and fears leaving the EU will leave Britain isolated.
Chipperfield, who was awarded the prestigious RIBA Royal Gold Medal for architecture in 2010, has worked on a number of high profile international projects. Recent works include building a museum behind the Taj Mahal, and designing the Nobel Centre in Stockholm.
With the US Embassy moving to its new location in Nine Elms, Chipperfield has been tasked with converting the Eero Saarinen-designed building in Mayfair into a luxury hotel.
Imagery courtesy of David Chipperfield and the Human Safety Net.