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Venice Saint Mark’s Square gets revamped thanks to Chipperfield
The Human Safety Net is a philanthropic project supported by Generali, with headquarters within the Procuratie Vecchie historical building, due to reopen after five centuries
The ‘Procuratie Vecchie’ historical building is going to get revamped by Assicurazioni Generali group. Renovation project by David Chipperfield
Saint Mark’s Square in Venice is going to get a new look. Insurance behemoth Assicurazioni Generali has newly unveiled an imposing project that will lend Saint Mark’s Square a completely new face, philanthropic and sustainable at the same time. The renovation of the Procuratie Vecchie, one of the city’s main symbols, that will again be open to the public after a 500 year time span, hosting the headquarters of The Human Safety Net: a global initiative to support the most vulnerable communities through a network of ‘people who help other people’. The real news for architecture fans, though, is that British archistar David Chipperfield is going to manage the renovation works.
Choosing David Chipperfield Architects founder was quite obvious, explained Gruppo Generali CEO Philippe Donnet, “because of Chipperfield’s love for Venice and his vision of a renovation which would respectfully take into account both the architectural and social heritage of the city”.
Chipperfield, former apprentice to Norman Foster, winner of the Stirling Award 2007 and Wolf Prize in Arts 2010, said he was “happy to have the opportunity to work on such a coherent project”, which will extended to further portions of the Square and Royal Gardens, recreating several historic paths within Saint Mark’s Square perimeter. The project aims at transforming the Procuratie Vecchie into a dynamic space, suitable to represent The Human Safety Net’s global mission, simultaneously preserving the majestic beauty and history of each building”.
The history of the Procuratie is no less complex than its immense facade, intermingled with the lives of Doges and counselors (i.e. ‘procuratori’, hence the word ‘Procuratie’, editor’s note) since the beginning of the XII century until the terrible fire that broke out five centuries ago, when the building had to be demolished and subsequently reconstructed. From then on, the project’s authorship has been lost in the darkness of an uncertain documentation. In 1832, the Generali group open their first offices within the building – saint Mark’s Lion later became the company’s logo – where they would work until the 1980s.
During this new chapter of their history, the Procuratie Vecchie will open their doors to a series of interesting projects by The Human Safety Net. Generali invites anyone – private persons, clients, NGO – to participate in three charity programs, selected among more than 300 ideas suggested by the company’s employees.
One of the programs, dedicated to families, will provide support to 30.000 disadvantaged parents and children up to 6 years. The ‘start-ups for refugees’ program promotes the creation of 500 new companies and professional opportunities for refugees seeking asylum in our country. And then an educational program to create professionals in order to save 1000 newborn babies from asphyxia, a potentially fatal childhood illness. “To unlock disadvantaged people’s human potential” is the initiative’s motto.
Photo credits © Getty Images
A strong, beautiful idea that perfectly matches Venice’s quintessential nature – a crossroads of peoples and cultures – and the timeless beauty of Saint Mark’s Square historical building, already admired by Albrecht Dürer hundreds of years ago. Chipperfield will have to deal with its 50 arcades, 152m length, and three architectural ranges culminating in over a hundred windows. A majestic expression of Italian architecture, visible in its classical round arches, bordering on something completely ‘other’; in the obsessive lightness of its ornamental details evoking Eastern lands and Byzantium, and that almost seem to “be affected by their excessive thinness”, as Giovanni Jacopo Fontana wrote in 1865 in his volume Venice’s Hundred Most Beautiful Palaces.
The archistar will have to turn these now almost deserted rooms into exhibition spaces, event settings, public debate halls, voluntary and collective work actions. Bywords: more horizontal surfaces, less verticality, in keeping with collaboration and social relations.
A great intervention, this one by Generali, that will cheer up anyone who cares about the preservation of our historical masterpieces and the defense of the weakest, “responding to the commitment of one of the world’s most sustainable companies – according to the Corporate Knights Ranking – and contributing to the creation of a healthy, resilient and sustainable society, a society in which people can actually develop and thrive.”
Should it suddenly occur to anyone that what we are dealing with is just an operation of reputational marketing, let’s at least try to think it this way: it is always better to have a capitalism with a human face, than the shapeless capitalism we usually call “high finance”.
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