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Philippe Starck reimagines historic restaurant Quadri as 'a Venetian wonderland of mystery, poetry and magic'

By Kim Megson    02 Mar 2018
The Michelin-starred Quadri, owned by restaurateurs the Alajmo family since 2010, has been reinterpreted by the French designer as 'a Venetian wonderland of mystery, poetry and magic' / Starck Network
Hidden fertile surprises come to life everywhere; on the walls with the fabric, in the lights with the surrealistic chandeliers and in the chimeric taxidermy collection that inhabits the place
– Philippe Starck

An 18th-century restaurant and cafe in Venice’s historic St Mark’s Square has reopened following a major restoration overseen by Philippe Starck.

The Michelin-starred Quadri, owned by restaurateurs the Alajmo family since 2010, has been reinterpreted by the French designer as “a Venetian wonderland of mystery, poetry and magic.”

He has worked with local artisans – including glassblowers, carpenters, fabric-makers and art restorers – to recover the building’s original architectural details, while adding “a romantic and slightly surrealistic atmosphere.”

“We simply looked for its wonders, and we discovered a wonderland,” said Starck. “Out of respect, love and intelligence, we didn’t want to change such a powerful concentration of beauty and oddity.

“With our design, everything here is a mental game, with its own magical little music. Hidden fertile surprises come to life everywhere; on the walls with the fabric, in the lights with the surrealistic chandeliers and in the chimeric taxidermy collection that inhabits the place. This dream partly comes from my brain, my heart and my folly. Yet we needed hands to make it a reality.”

The building’s ground floor café and bistro, Grancaffè Quadri and Quadrino, have had their walls restored by art restorers Anna de Spirt and Adriana Spagnol, who were able to peel back layers of paint to reveal the original stuccowork from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Elsewhere, previously deep red wall coverings are now a rich golden brown, courtesy of Venetian fabric maker Tessitura Bevilacqua, with a material made in the 1500s inspiring the pattern that now repeats across the room, while the wooden frames that hold the large windows looking out onto St. Mark’s Square have been restored.

The Barbini brothers, whose descendants produced all the mirrors that hang in the Palace of Versailles, have crafted a large entrance mirror and the smaller ones in the bathrooms, all inspired by century-old designs.

Too add a dose of quirkiness, the horse-drawn carriages and gondolas that appear as motifs in the building have given way to satellites and astronauts, while a large Rezzonico-style Murano glass chandelier from the 1930s has been joined by a new chandelier of the same dimensions and style, but with surrealistic dripping glass details, created by French glassblower Aristide Najean. Striking painted carpets lining the floor have been designed by Starck’s daughter, Ara Starck.

“We decided to restore Quadri because we felt that it was time to bring back the original splendour of the space in a contemporary context,” said Ajamo CEO Raffaele Alajmo. “We felt this was necessary if our intent is for Quadri to represent Italian cuisine on a global level.”

The Ajamo family had previously collaborated with Starck on two other eateries in the Quadri family – Caffè Stern, “a phantasmagoric bacaro in the heart of Paris” and AMO, “a mysterious and elegant café” in Venice.

Philippe Starck  Ara Starck  Quadri  Venice  St Mark's Square  the Ajamo family 
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