With the two museums Palazzo Grassi and Punta Della Dogana, the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi is the third location of the Pinault Collection in Venice, Italy. The Teatrino, which was first planned as a garden for Palazzo Grassi in 1857 before being converted into a vegetable theater, covered in 1961, was left unattended in 1983. It is a trapezoid plan of around 1000 square meters (Theater of Palazzo Grassi, Venice , Hours, exhibitions, and artworks on Artsupp, 2020). 

Timeline of restoration: The Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi - Sheet1
Entrance of Teatrino Di Palazzo Grassi_©https://artsupp.com/en/venice/museums/teatrino-di-palazzo-grassi#partner-header

In Japanese culture, Ma is a void that allows the mind to disengage from superstructures and discover a universal meaning—a truth—for everything. In this way, a museum is like a Ma: a serene, meaningful space where artifacts are displayed in a “void” that has a wealth of expressive possibilities, elevating them to a spiritual status. The locations of culture are the spaces of Ma because they are full of possibilities, enable inter-personal communication, and grow out of this discourse. They serve as gathering spots where people may collaborate to create a new world. François Pinault intended the three locations—Palazzo Grassi, the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi, and Punta Della Dogana—where his collection and cultural events are held to be interconnected by a shared spirit that would show both their past and their becoming as if they were alive. It was intended for those locations to become a part of people’s everyday lives and to inspire frequent visits. The areas were to be connected and blended with the historical setting into which they were placed, according to Pinault (Venice Design Biennial , Tadao Ando, Venice, and the Pinault Collection, 2021).

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External view of Palazzo Grassi_©Matteo De Fina

Given the requirements of the French businessman, Tadao Ando was the only architect who could be chosen since his structures must always be the setting of an independent person’s existence, who finds the bravery and fortitude to live through them. a kind of architecture that Ma uses to establish the relationships between interstitial spaces. For this reason, the Japanese architect has been shaping François Pinault’s cultural projects including the building of Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi in Venice from 2006 to 2013. Tadao Ando’s architecture fills the void between a location’s past and its modern purpose, as well as between the outside world and our inner selves. With the help of Ando’s architectural interventions, individuals may lose themselves in the void of basic geometric shapes and allow the life force to move and breathe. Ando’s goal was to create new areas where storied structures from the past had previously occupied the area (Venice Design Biennial , Tadao Ando, Venice and the Pinault Collection, 2021).

Concept of the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi

The 2013 renovation of the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi is the subject of Ando’s most recent project for Pinault. To “place a diamond in a treasure box,” as the designer put it. The goal was to establish a conversation between the original outside building, which has not undergone any architectural changes since it was built in 1961, and the whole other parallel universe that resides inside of it. The Teatrino is divided into two sizable spaces: a 225-seat auditorium and a foyer distinguished by sizable triangle-shaped apertures on the walls and an illuminated triangular skylight. The concept pays homage to the triangle shape; it astounds, inspires motion, and symbolizes the diverse cultural programs it provides. With these three projects, Tadao Ando displayed all of his creativity, creating dynamic environments that fulfilled Monsieur Pinault’s vision of locations where people may explore, become lost, learn, and discover new aspects of themselves every time (Venice Design Biennial , Tadao Ando, Venice and the Pinault Collection, 2021).

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Describing the Ma space_©Pinault Collection

The design of the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi

The outside perimeter and the building’s original floor layout served as the architect Tadao Ando’s starting point, and he left the outside wall placement and uniformity untouched. The roof was changed into a single, even slope. To preserve the outside structure’s original state, the final shape is a uniform rectangle that is only shaped on the front and back. The internal undertaking after rebuilding the exterior wrapping that preserves the original shape of the building, Tadao Ando inserted an entirely new volume inside to define the area for theatrical performances and screenings. By giving the space an architectural shape, Tadao Ando made it stand out like a brand-new piece of art that challenges the historical context in which it is situated. This new building highlights two key features of Teatrino’s functional and architectural restoration project: the first consists of an auditorium with a stage, a backstage area with a technical room, and a set of steps leading to spectator seating; The second is a foyer is distinguished by a big triangular skylight that lets natural light into the building and by wide triangular gaps on the walls that allow free movement between the foyer and adjacent spaces (Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi , Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, 2013).

On an intermediate floor that is accessible via a side staircase are the control room, the translation booths, and a storage area. The vertical components within the Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi were created by fusing new steel structures that were planned along a curved line (the project’s “twist” walls) with existing steel pillars that were placed throughout the perimeter and rehabilitated. These pillars sustain not only the roof’s vertical load but also the walls that were built specifically to ensure that the auditorium is completely soundproof. In external finishing projects following a morphological examination of the structure, several types of existing coatings were identified based on where they were located on the outside walls and then replaced with marmorino and natural lime coatings. Only the finishing works level was responsible for maintaining the diversity of coats on the walls. To produce two distinct types of surfaces—thinner on the lower portion and rougher on the higher section of the walls—marmorino was used to cover the façade that looks out onto Calle delle Carrozze while a treated lime mixture was used to cover the other fronts. The roof’s construction uses rolled zinc alloy to evoke the rolling lead roof typologies of the past (Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi , Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, 2013).

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With the view of the side staircase_©Pinault Collection
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Inside view of the Theatre_©Pinault Collection
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Inside view of the Theatre_©Pinault Collection

Internal finishing operations, the proposal for the interior finishing works adheres to the minimalist style that distinguishes Tadao Ando’s building; the materials used to finish the vertical exterior walls may thus be found inside once again. The inside of the walls has a lime polishing finish. On one side of the interior structure’s curving walls, marmorino was applied; on the other side facing the auditorium, sound-absorbing materials were needed. The flooring is constructed of a fitted carpet, wood, and exposed aggregate concrete. Flood-proofing against water, a waterproof slab, also known as a water retention tank, was created to assure the building’s complete impermeability and to defend against tides that may rise to two meters above sea level. The tank was built using the most cutting-edge techniques already employed to rebuild Punta Della Dogana, and it leans on a slab. Technical details of the 1000 square meter Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi: total seating capacity: 225, 2 foyers, each measuring 115 square meters and 90 square meters. Two translation booths and one control room, a maximum ceiling height are 7 meters, 160 individuals and 30 firms participating in the project with 6.5 thousand hours of labor (Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi , Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, 2013).

Internal view of Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi_©Pinault Collection

At Present-day

The Teatrino presents a varied schedule related to both the current exhibitions at the Palazzo Grassi and Punta Della Dogana as well as the various disciplines of modern inquiry and creative expression. Meetings, film screenings, panel discussions, seminars, as well as musical and dance performances, can all be held in the auditorium. With over 100 events annually, the majority of which are free and conceived and produced by Palazzo Grassi, The Teatrino has established itself as one of the most dynamic players in the Venetian cultural scene. Many of these events also involve local, national, and international partners. Actors who travel to and experience Venice often use the Teatrino as a forum for meetings and exchanges. The architect Tadao Ando, the artist Simone Fattal, the critic, art historian, and activist Elisabeth Lebovici, the musician Alva Noto, the author Yasmina Reza, and the artist Luc Tuymans are just a few of the notable individuals that interacted with the public (Theater of Palazzo Grassi, Venice , Hours, exhibitions and artworks on Artsupp, 2020).

Timeline of restoration: The Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi - Sheet8
Inside Space_©https://artsupp.com/en/venice/museums/teatrino-di-palazzo-grassi#partner-header
Inside Space_©https://artsupp.com/en/venice/museums/teatrino-di-palazzo-grassi#partner-header


  1. Artsupp. 2020. Theater of Palazzo Grassi, Venice , Hours, exhibitions and artworks on Artsupp. [online] Available at: <https://artsupp.com/en/venice/museums/teatrino-di-palazzo-grassi#partner-header> [Accessed 11 August 2022].
  2. Archilovers. 2013. Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi , Tadao Ando Architect & Associates. [online] Available at: <https://www.archilovers.com/projects/101424/teatrino-of-palazzo-grassi.html#info>
  3. Venice Design Biennial. 2021. Venice Design Biennial , Tadao Ando, Venice and the Pinault Collection. [online] Available at: <https://www.venicedesignbiennial.org/the-platform/tadao-ando-venice-and-the-pinault-collection>

Prashanti is an Architect from India, who is currently pursuing her master’s in Design Research in Germany and got lucky to study in the Bauhaus Building. She is a potterhead and plays guitar. She feels excited and blessed to be able to share her stories through RTF.