VENICE - The restoration works on Palazzo Papadopoli, aimed at recovering the historic building and converting it into a prestigious hotel with 24 suites, were completed in a record time of only 18 months, including furnishings. The lead company for this project was Dottor Group, a Veneto-based firm specialising in the architectural and monumental restoration of historic and artistic buildings, which took advantage of its collaboration with Pilosio and the firm’s MP multidirectional scaffolding system, the “killer application” on this construction site as in many other situations with a high level of complexity. The works involved the structures, cover and facades, the equipment and the impressive decorations, not to mention the two splendid gardens, and began in September, 2011, continuing at a fast pace until March, 2013. Around 100 employees a day operated on the construction site, on a tight weekly and daily schedule, with peaks of 130.
No more than 25 percent of the entire surface area of the building, around 6,000 square metres, is intended for rooms, with an average of around 65 square metres per suite. The building was placed under the protection of the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities and so the inherent difficulties in converting an historic palace into an accommodation facility while maintaining the splendour of Palazzo Papadopoli are obvious. The project of consolidating the existing structures, the installation of new equipment, the restoration of the decorations, as well as the incorporation of the new functions required to implement the plan to change the building’s intended use, was directed at restoring the original artefacts and the non-invasive, tasteful inclusion of new equipment and structures.
During the restoration under this project, the various professional figures were closely coordinated and all the phases of the process of executing the work, from the design to the turnkey delivery, were managed. The excellent result achieved depended, among other things, on having implemented a rigorous team analysis of all the site macro activities, including the installation of the equipment (mechanical, electrical and special) in order to prevent any overlap of plant components and to anticipate any criticalities, identifying the best aesthetic solutions.
During the execution of the works, progress was monitored on a daily basis with the support of an suitable risk analysis and with constant interfacing between the specialised technicians, the management and the professionals involved, with the result the works were delivered on schedule and on budget. On a construction site in the heart of the lagoon city, the criticalities regarding the logistics and preparation of the site were not insignificant. A crane with a maximum capacity of 2,500 kg and an extension arm of 40 metres, and a three storey structure designed for offices and meeting rooms, built of modular, prefabricated blocks, were located in the garden facing the Grand Canal for the entire 18 months of the works.
The restoration works involved all the priceless historical and artistic surfaces, the antique furnishings and the external facades. The splendid interior surfaces boast exquisite painted and gilded stucco and frescos from the XVIII and XIX centuries. Among the paintings of greatest merit are those of Tiepolo and his school on the second floor, a fresco by Guarana and the trompe l'oeil of the monumental staircase that draws on the great Renaissance tradition begun by Paolo Veronese. Among the wall hangings, the leather tapestry painted and gilded in the Arab tradition on the walls of the Library, the “soprarizzo” velvet in the Sala delle Quattro Porte, where there is also a very valuable marble fireplace sculpted by the Sansovino workshop, stand out. Among the furnishings, the dressers of the Brustolon school and the wooden table carved with groups of Sirens in the Library are remarkable.
The restoration works were aimed at eliminating the factors of degradation and the situations that presented risks for the preservation of all the decorations, in accordance with the historic nature of the places. Therefore, consolidation works were carried out on the plaster, the pictorial layers, the sculptural reliefs of the stucco, in addition to treatments to prevent biodeteriogenic agents, and soot was cleaned from the Murano glass and bronze chandeliers that light the room. Stucco was applied to the fissures and cracks in the wall paintings and blended pictorially for the purpose of preventing environmental humidity entering the wall structure.
Technology dictated the choice of intervention, and this was certainly the case with fake marble destroyed by humidity, which was reconstructed in aluminium, a metal used in the aeronautical industry for its resistance and lightness. Where possible, the fittings were renovated, meticulously restoring 150 year old mechanisms that bear witness to the technology of the era. In the rooms where tapestries hung made of material now lost, the photos from the era helped recreate the materials in the original design but using fire resistant cloth as laid down by current regulations on the matter. The marvellous chandeliers were handed to Murano glass masters for restoration and the replacement of missing pieces with reconstructions that are identical to the original. The wooden floors were catalogued piece by piece, then removed to allow the structural consolidation of the floors as laid down by the regulations and, finally, reassembled in the original position following restoration. The Istria stone of the façade on the Grand Canal was cleaned of the blackened outer layer while keeping the natural patina of time and the faint protection applied in the 16th century.