Palazzo Soranzo van Axel
The research carried out on the Palazzo Soranzo van Axel has been funded by a generous donation from Martin Randall Travel following their 2008 Venice Music Festival.
Constructed between 1473 and 1479, Palazzo Soranzo van Axel (Cannaregio 6099) is one of the outstanding and best conserved examples of late gothic palaces in Venice. Parts of a pre-gothic palace are conserved in the ground floor. Due to salt contamination of the brick masonry in the ground floor the plasterwork is mostly detached, a condition which, before restoration, provides the perfect opportunity to analyse and to understand the history of early construction. The Venice in Peril Fund recognised the importance of mapping the fragments of original decoration and in early 2009 undertook a study of the early building history of the palace. Thorough research into the conditions and historical importance of the pre-gothic and gothic ground floor walls offers the possibility to give recommendations for the preservation and protection of this historical monument.
The palace was built by Nicolò Soranzo, procurator of Saint Mark's, for himself and his brother. The building required two land gates, two courtyards and two water entrances to maintain the independence of the two branches of the family, resulting in a complex and irregular palazzo with two facades on two channels (rio della Panada and rio di San Canciano). On the same site stood a previous building erected by the Gradenigo family which remains evident in large parts of ornamental and building material of a pre-gothic period.
The project undertook to save the evidence of this outstanding example of early Venetian housing, with all its transformations, with a particular emphasis on surveying the unplastered walls of the ground floor, ahead of restoration work. Furthermore, international standards required the recording of the different types of brickwork, masonry and findings of the inner walls of the ground floor up to the first storey including measurements of former heights of floors, doorsteps and other main elements. A digital photogrammetry of all the inner walls was also provided to map the findings alongside documentation of the status quo. To gain certainty of the dating and to interpret the findings, a detailed collection of data from the archives and literature documenting the palace was also undertaken.
Through these investigations a piece of cultural evidence which otherwise would have been gone or inaccessible for an indefinite time has been saved. There is a constant threat to the old Venetian palaces of reconstruction and transformation, often resulting in the entrance and ground floor areas of these singular buildings being lost completely.