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Restaurant design by Philippe Starck in Venice; Photo: Frederico Nero

AMO: Restaurant design by Philippe Starck in Venice

The Palazzo Il Fondaco dei Tedeschi – first mentioned in a document in 1228 – is located in the heart of the tourist quarter of Venice, just a few metres away from the Rialto Bridge. Over the course of the centuries, the building, which acted as the trading centre of German merchants in Venice until well into the 19th century, underwent reconstruction several times. The Benetton Group bought it in 2008 and commissioned the OMA architectural studio with its alteration. The spectacular project was accompanied by heated discussion, with the city enacting stricter rules for the protection of historic buildings in reaction to the architects' observation about the "objective lack of authenticity of its structure".  

One sensational alteration consists of the red-stepped escalators that whisk architecture lovers and shoppers up to the upper storeys and public terraces like a magic carpet.  Another concerns the central covered courtyard, remodelled by the architects into a piazza open to the general public. Since late last year this piazza has become the site of a restaurant and coffee shop that show every sign of becoming a further must-go-to place in Venice. The work of Philippe Stark (in collaboration with his daughter), the eating place is designed to express the Venetian spirit in concentrated form, as its operator notes. The colours and shapes recall those of a Venetian theatrical play; the individually produced sofas with their unusually high backrests are reminiscent of traditional Venetian gondolas, and an artist specialising in Murano glass designed the floral forms of the chandelier that hangs in the coffee shop. The exclusive polished cast bronze chairs by Tjep of Amsterdam are also worth mentioning.

The fact that the AMO is more than ideal for a family visit is an inestimable advantage, since all mothers, fathers and siblings not particularly interested in the architecture can be kept wonderfully occupied with a spicy 'potato cappuccino with Bolognese ragù' – a speciality of the house.

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