Punta della Dogana
A dialogue between old and new elements, a link between the history of the building, its present and its future.
The location of the new home for the Francois Pinault
Collection, the Punta della Dogana, is one of the most prominent
places in Venice, the merging point of the Grand Canal and the
Giudecca Canal, meters away from the memorial church of santa Maria
In the days when Venice was a major commercial center, the Dogana da Mar, the Customs House of Venice, built by Benoni about 1677, controlled access to the Grand Canal and the San Marco docks.
On top of the gateway is a golden ball, with a weather vane,
Prominently situated outdoors on the very tip of the Punta della Dogana is an eight foot tall sculpture by Charles Ray, Boy with Frog, which has already become a signpost for Venice's newest contemporary art space.
Tadao Ando drew up his plans for the new centre quickly. In
effect, if one looks at his drawings one sees that, from the first,
the broad outlines of the project were clear in his mind. The
characteristic layout of the former warehouses was to be
The original structural volume creates a triangle, a direct
reference to the shape of the tip of the island of Dorsoduro, while
the interiors are divided into long rectangles, with a series of
The existing structure was restored to its base construction, with centuries of partitions, passageways, and other additions eliminated. The exterior perimeter walls are still in the original red brick, restored with the traditional "scuci cuci" technique, so they look imperfect and raw.
The 20 glazed water gates, each topped by an arched window, were
The new galleries follow the arrangement of the original bays. The original wood ceiling beams are restored to perfection, adding occasional skylights to let in daylight. In addition, high semi-circular steel windows let in light and offer framed views of the Grand Canal and the Giudecca island.
Almost dead-center of the triangular floor plan Ando created a
new space, filled with daylight, in his signature polished
concrete. This axial point, through which run all the routes within
the structure, forms a cube, rising vertically within the volume of
There is no attempt to disguise the new partition walls, stairs, walkways and service facilities within the old body of the structure. Instead, there is a continual play of juxtaposition - almost as if Ando's intention were to insert within the ancient building new volumes and levels that seem to mark out the stratifications added over time, organizing them into a veritable spectacle of the structure's own history.
Finally, Ando had the idea of creating gates for the water
entrances that are explicit quotations of the wonderful gate that
Carlo Scarpa designed in 1956. The design of these new doors and
windows, though very modern, effectively employed Venetian
This building has been floating on the water since the 15th century, and my intention is to see it float into the future; it is a very old building and it was very difficult to study its history so as to preserve its original structure and innovate toward the future. I will use a 20th century material, reinforced concrete, fitting it into this historic structure./Tadao Ando when presenting the project in 2007
Facts about Punta della Dogana
ca. 5,000 m2
Photographed by Thomas Mayer
Francois Pinault Foundation
Last updated: January 14, 2013
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