Venice and roses
Maria Giulia Zunino
Matteo Thun & Partners + luca Colombo
In honour of the city’s patron saint St. Mark the Evangelist and the mediaeval Bocolo di San Marco («St. Mark’s rosebud») festival, it is still traditional today for Venetian men to give their sweethearts a red rose on 25 April.
Roses also lend their name to one of the largest and youngest islands in the lagoon: the 16-hectare Sacca Sessola, founded in 1870. This artificial island («sacca») has a trapezoidal shape reminiscent of the scoop («sessola») used by gondoliers to empty out water from the bottom of their boats. Over the years the island was used for fuel storage, as a hospital for contagious diseases, St. Mark’s Hospital and finally the Pulmonary Hospital, inaugurated with much fanfare in 1936 by King Vittorio Emmanuele III. This modern, self-sufficient 400-bed structure is set amongst extensive grounds with pavilions and also features a thermal power station, a water tower, a neo-Romanesque church, vegetable gardens, warehouses, workshops, living quarters and a recreational centre with a cinema. After the hospital was moved, the island was left in a state of neglect for decades, until it was acquired in 2010 by the Marriott Group, which commissioned Matteo Thun & Partners + Luca Colombo to convert it into «a 266-room hotel set in the lagoon landscape. Surrounded by nature and history, it is a resort and spa that stands out for three zeros: zero-kilometre fruit and vegetables, zero CO2 production and zero waste». Water, silence and a slow pace of life are the essential ingredients.
As part of a holistic and multicultural approach that fully exploits the genius loci and the brand characteristics, the project maintains the existing architecture without sacrificing comfort or functionality. In accordance with the principle of a «box in a box», the outer envelopes were restored and new interiors built.
The hotel occupies the main building and is complemented by the most dramatic architectural element of the entire project: the terrace with infinity pool and panoramic restaurant offering a unique and unforgettable view of St. Mark’s Square. The floors in the 230 exquisite suites are inspired by the pavings in the former recreational centre. The original wood has been replaced with long, luminous and contemporary 10×60 cm porcelain strips from the Architecture (Warm Grey) and Unicolore (Aquamarine and Old Pink) collections produced by Casalgrande Padana, while the addition of colour has resulted in an innovative herringbone pattern consisting of an alternation of four typically Venetian pastel shades. The visually striking finished result has the appearance of a soft, elegant carpet.
In total, almost twenty buildings have been renovated. The recreational centre has been transformed into a large restaurant near the private heliport, the Art Nouveau villa has been turned into a holiday home with a garden and swimming pool, and the church serves as the perfect venue for unforgettable weddings, not to mention the many other residences and restaurants, the 15-room conference centre, the spa and the fitness areas. The entire complex is set in a magical natural landscape where guests can enjoy the unique microclimate and explore the lagoon and its treasures, the canal, the rose gardens, the olive grove, the vegetable gardens and orchards, the palms and willows, and the avenues lined with larch trees and magnolias, pines, horse chestnuts and cedars.