Perhaps no other city wears the weight of its history as gracefully as Venice. The exquisite palazzos that line the Grand Canal in Venice bear testament to 500 years of history, so when Amanresorts converted the Palazzo Papadopoli into a seven-star jewel of a hotel, sensitive alteration was the watchword. It has been done so successfully that George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin chose it as the location for their wedding in 2014.
Who designed Aman Canal Grande Venice?
The palazzo was built in 1550 and adapted over the years, most notably by the Tiepolo family in the 1700s and by Michelangelo Guggenheim in 1865. Jean-Michel Gathy and Denniston International Architects have preserved its exquisite antecedents while providing the modern amenities expected from a luxury hotel.
What is the concept behind the hotel?
Denniston’s aim was to avoid competing with the phenomenal period design and architecture: non-structural interiors were created in a contemporary style in the lightest and most delicate tones. There is a deeply pleasing mix of eras at the hotel: minimalist furniture from B&B Italia delicately complements the lavish original décor: there are silk damasks on the walls by Rubelli, paintings are from the owner Count Arrivabene’s personal collection and the chandeliers are crystal.
What were the challenges?
The building was in a very fragile state when Denniston started their work. The highly decorated piano nobile rooms were showing cracks in the fresco ceilings, the fabric wall panels were ripped and faded and the patterned terrazzo alla Veneziana was cracked and crumbling. As is always an issue in Venice, ground floor rooms were damp due to water infiltration, while undecorated rooms had been transformed into featureless government offices. All the restoration and conversion had to be achieved in conjunction with local authorities as the palazzo is a building of historical importance.
How was this achieved?
The biggest challenge was to incorporate the mechanicals and electricals in the most efficient and discreet way possible. As the existing architecture was untouchable, they worked very closely with engineers to integrate air-conditioning systems and lighting directly into custom-made contemporary furniture, ensuring a visually neat design outcome.
Were any traditional techniques or craftsmen used in creating Aman Canal Grande?
The great joy of working in Venice is that many craftsmen have continued their craft unchanged for hundreds of years, meaning there were expert restorers on tap. For the period decoration and plaster ceiling frescos plus the staircase’s Venetian plaster features. All the original panelled wall fabrics and curtains were re-created by the fabric ateliers Bevilacqua and Rubelli. The original parquet floors and windows were removed, refurbished and treated in an artisan’s workshop, as were the heavily decorated terrazzo alla Veneziana floors. Every crystal chandelier was sent to Murano to be refurbished, and where chandeliers were missing they were replaced with custom-designed Barovier & Toso ones.
Is there anything special about the palazzo?
Indeed yes. As well as the incredible ceilings, floors and walls, and the priceless art belonging to the Count, Aman Canal Grande is highly unusual in that it has two gardens. One is on the canal, overlooking the busy waterway and famous views of this UNESCO World Heritage city. The other is sequestered away in elegant seclusion at the back of the palazzo.
What are the best features of the hotel?
Guests generally arrive at the hotel by boat, straight into the gorgeous lobby with its high ceilings and historic frescoes. The highly decorated stairs lead to the Red and Yellow Dining Rooms, the latter featuring a magnificent fireplace and ceiling painted by Cesare Rotta plus views of the Grand Canal. The 4th floor Library has leather decorated walls and features an 18th century book cabinet. Gathy is proud of the bathrooms saying, “[They] have been the areas where we have been able to combine the best of the contemporary style with… masterpiece ceilings and heavy chandeliers, plus the best Italian craftsmanship and suppliers, to achieve an amazing contemporary design detailing.”
Which room should you book?
There are 24 rooms and suites, all unique. However for sheer Venetian indulgence it’s hard to beat the Alcova Tiepolo Suite with a Chinese painted sitting room and a bedroom ceiling by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.