Built on Sacca Sessola, the largest of the hundreds of islets scattered across the Venetian lagoon, the newest launch from hotel group JW Marriott, appears like a floating slice of countryside, with all of its 20 buildings – which comprise a luxury hotel, private villas, and a spa and wellness centre – surrounded by a lush park of green grass, olive trees, ivy-trellised terraces and a vegetable garden that furnishes the resort’s two restaurants with fresh produce daily.

‘This is a return to nature,’ observes Milan-based architect Matteo Thun, who together with partner Luca Colombo not only designed the buildings and its interiors, but also the landscaping that unfurls freely across the 160,000 sq m property. ‘The empty spaces are a true luxury for Venice.’ 

A former convalescent hospital for contagious patients, the island’s original structures date back to 1936. Rather than toppling the series of abandoned buildings, Thun carefully restored each of them to maintain the year-worn patina of their antique brick facades.  He then built new structures within the original frames without touching the existing walls. Thun’s ‘box-in-the-box’ principle allows for an authentic rendition of storied buildings.

‘I can’t stand the fake old thing,’ the architect observes of Venice’s many artificially produced ‘historic’ hotels. But his interiors are strictly non-nostalgic, focusing on his design doctrine of sustainability and zero-waste. A network of local partners includes textiles from Rubelli, customised light installations by Barovier & Toso, Zucchetti’s bathroom fixtures, hand-blown glass lamps designed by Antonio Rodriguez and produced by Artemide and clean furniture crafted from local wood.  

Meanwhile, all of the treatment rooms in the spa as well as the rooftop infinity pool offer views of the Venetian skyline. ‘You can see the sunset at Piazza San Marco,’ says the architect. ‘It’s fantastic. It’s so rare to actually see Venice in Venice.’