Luxury market: Venice welcomes the Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store

A 4-storey mansion-like building with Italian windows, balconies on the 1st floor with lights on in all the rooms. Photographed at dusk from the other side of the canal
Venice’s new DFS department store opens at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi this weekend – a much needed addition to the historical Italian city’s shopping scene.
(Image credit: Delfino Sisto Legnani, Marco Cappelletti)

This weekend’s opening of the new DFS department store Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice adds yet another layer to the city’s many-splendoured charms – though ‘store’ barely begins to describe the sheer scale of the experience.

Located on the San Marco side of the Rialto, the Fondaco takes up an entire 13th-century palazzo. Originally built as a warehouse, office and residence for the city’s German merchants (see our October issue, W*211), this was recently reimagined by OMA – responsible for the large scale architectural interventions and preservation works – and Jamie Fobert Architects, who created the internal retail vision.

A store floor featuring white ceiling with ceiling lights, white floors and shelved walls with gourmet selections on display.

The new store features an irresistible gourmet section

(Image credit: press)

Clearly edited with an eye on the luxury market, the stock is a bewildering sweep of over 300, mainly Italian, brands. Gucci and Bottega Veneta hold court on the ground level alongside an Italian specialist gourmet corner, while a spiralling ribbon of cardinal red escalators rise to the upper floors, which stock women’s fashion and jewellery (first floor), men’s fashion and watches (second), and women’s shoes and beauty (third).

Fobert’s room-sets subtly demarcate the stock by brand and category. Lined with handsome timber shelves and flooring, and bubble chandeliers, the spaces flow organically from the outer corridor that looks through the arched loggias into the courtyard, to the inner rooms that are awash with light from windows lining all four sides of the palazzo. And invariably, the eye is drawn along corridors linked with arched doorways, while the struts of the display shelves quietly reference ancient Venetian doorways.

A glass pavilion featuring rectangle designs on grey flooring with geometric wall art.

A glass pavilion sitting at the top of the Fondaco was also restored by OMA and will be used for public and private events

(Image credit: press)

The fourth floor is an unexpectedly huge exhibition space that’s currently showing Underwater, Fabrizio Plessi’s mesmerising video installation of submerged mosaics. For sheer spectacle, though, it’s difficult to beat the view of Venice, unyielding in its soft beauty, and the bend of the Grand Canal, from the public rooftop deck.

Regroup between retail strikes at the Philippe Starck-designed Amo café and bakery – headed by Alajmo alum Silvio Giavedoni – in the central courtyard, next to the original stone well.

On literally every level, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi – the cost of which is discretely said to have been ‘a significant amount’ – reflects DFS's confidence in what it regards as Venice’s underdeveloped luxury retail scene. In fact, a couple of million visitors a year are expected to drop in. Quite what the actual spend will be is anybody’s guess, but there is every reason to expect the Fondaco to be a certified crowd-pleaser.

Enrance to the building with 2 tall black doors opened ajar leading into the shop. One the right and left od the door are 2 display windows and items on display

OMA worked on the building’s overall architecture and restoration, breathing life back into the formerly neglected structure

(Image credit: press)

A concourse-like open space in the interior of the buildng in shades of brown and grrey colour with arch designs

Once the building’s large-scale architecture and preservation works were complete, the Fondaco baton was passed to London-based Jamie Fobert Architects who focused on the commercial interiors

(Image credit: press)

interior of the building with a view of different floors with items on display for sale

This included concept designs for common and multi-brand areas, as well as the structure of how different brands and spaces interact

(Image credit: press)

Interior of the building showcasing the architectural design view on different floors with the red and brown escalator

Fobert drew inspiration from all things Venetian to create a contemporary space that is full of bespoke elements, from shelving to display cases 

(Image credit: press)

An instore display of bags for sale on mannequin and display tables

At the same time, individual brands worked on their own interiors with different designers 

(Image credit: press)

A window like display of items on sale and on both sides items for display in a tall display stand photographed against a brown wall

These include well known fashion labels, but not only; on the ground floor the selection includes an Italian specialist gourmet corner

(Image credit: press)


For more information, visit the DFS website and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi website


Calle del Fontego dei Tedeschi
Rialto Bridge
30124 Venice


Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.