Palazzo Del Tritone

Deriving from the interest in the restoration of antique works of art and from the knowledge of prestigious materials, especially marbles, as well as from the scenographic studies, arises the passion for the restoration of Sorgente’s building and the setting up of the Tritone Exhibition Space of Fondazione Sorgente Group in via del Tritone in Rome (

An interview with Paola Mainetti, Vice President of Fondazione Sorgente Group and curator of the restoration works and of the choice of internal furnishings of Palazzo del Tritone of Sorgente Group:

Q. Can you give us a general idea of the building and of its architectural and artistic significance?

A. The building was completed in 1910, at the height of Art Nouveau. Based on a project by Engineer Pietro Satti, it is a remarkable example of style from this period, which our Foundation is most fond of. We have chosen to preserve the overall character of the building by restoring the elegance and magnificence it had once possessed but had then lost through many years of real neglect, before being purchased by Sorgente Group. It then became the headquarters of Fondazione Sorgente Group, an art and cultural institution, which created an exhibition area on the ground floor. The palazzo had previously housed a hotel, offices, apartment and shops. Now that renovation work has been carried out on every part of the building, it once again serves a single function and has regained its legitimate place alongside the other grand buildings in Via del Tritone.

Q. Please describe what elements you deem crucial for appreciating the value and relevance of the building.

A. Let’s start from the façade, which is no doubt highly representative of the style it embodies. After the conservation and restoration work, what stand out are the caryatids, the pilasters, the large cornice and the friezes decorating the entire building, adding a graceful and refined touch. In our restoration work we have sought to preserve any surviving original features. Luckily we can say that while obfuscated by the ravages of time and neglect, the various features were all rather well preserved. We have thus managed to restore the light colour of the façade – a “colour of the air”, to use a charming old expression typical of the Roman milieu. We have sought to pay the best possible homage to the Art Nouveau culture which the Palazzo illustrates, a light, bright and serene culture: the colour of the façade would appear to have been chosen in order to capture the passing of the hours of the day. We took these steps with full approval from the Superintendence in charge and are proud of the work undertaken. I dare say that we have shown what direction should be followed for Via del Tritone as a whole, a splendid street for its urban layout and architecture which – in my view- still requires further touches to improve the conservation and quality of its buildings. Over time, this street has become rather “dark” in certain places, and this stands in contrast to the work of the various architects who erected many buildings in the area, all of them of outstanding quality. It would be best, therefore for Via del Tritone to gradually revert to those beautiful colours which our predecessors wished to create and which it is worth fully restoring. I would like passers-by to eagerly shop and think: “finally, that building is light!”

Q. Let us talk about the renovation of the interior now.

A. By restoring the building as a whole, we have managed to lend all floors the same appearance again. The interior is based on the principles of Art Deco, except for the last floor, which is rather inspired by the ideals of Art Nouveau, and is furnished with authentic fittings from the period. It should be stressed that each floor is different because different types of marble have been used, all of them of refined quality, starting from the entrance, where visitors will immediately perceive the overall feel I have sought to give the building. Here glittering black and Siena yellow marble adds a New York-like touch that is to be found throughout the building and which characterizes our Group’s cultural approach. As is well known, our Group works in the United States a lot and has deep ties with the culture and the traditions of that country, which – with gracefulness and discretion – have been partly applied to the general arrangement of our building.

Q. Then behind this project there is a specific goal.

A. There certainly is: to add a fresh, contemporary touch to a building such as this, which was founded with the aim of modernizing the urban context. If those visiting feel that they are somehow between Rome and New York, we can consider our project to have been successfully accomplished. Besides, we purchased most of the fittings in New York and brought them back to Italy, although clearly the criteria we follow in many ways differ from American ones, and we claimed the originality thereof. Suffice to consider the fact that lately in America they have been stripping many grand reception buildings of the carpets adorning them, whereas we have strewn our Palazzo with magnificent carpets we really love!

Q. Does this criterion also apply to the “Tritone” exhibition area on the ground floor, which was specifically created for the cultural events hosted by Fondazione Sorgente Group?

A. Yes. We have sought to develop a unique looking place. It covers around 250 square metres and is structured on three levels, based on the idea of a unitary space. I have organized it in such a way as to ensure – through a system of transparent crystal balustrades – the full visibility of the objects and art works that we shall be putting on display, starting with the first exhibition, naturally devoted to Art Nouveau. What I had in mind were the kind of large American lofts that are often renovated using “strong” materials that very effectively define the exhibition area. The area in question has been restored using simple, authentic and genuine materials such as iron, copper and brick. I should actually stress that brick represents the very essence of the building. Even the colour of the walls, in the exhibition area, are intended to bring out the objects on display, be they ancient or contemporary ones. After all, the Foundation’s cultural interests are rather broad, so we need an exhibition site that is adaptable and flexible.

Q. If I am not mistaken, behind all of this lies a great love for craftsmanship and traditional work methods.

A. Absolutely, I need only mention the system I’ve adopted for laying the marble, the old “open vein” method, which entails great care for the way in which the material is cut and how the slabs are joined, so as to make their veins match perfectly and create a homogenous and consistent surface. But I should add that we have never followed any standard models for the finishing touches. You’ll notice this even by examining the slightest details, from the skirting board running along the walls - which is much higher than usual – to the rigorously Art Deco electric sockets and handles.

Q. As you might expect from a grand Roman palazzo, the building has an amazing panoramic terrace.

A. Yes. It offers a view that extends from the Quirinal Hill to San Luigi dei Francesi, from St. Peter’s to Trinità dei Monti, embracing many aspects of both the ancient and modern city that give a really inspiring picture of Rome in all its beauty.

Q: If instead we move down to the garage, here too we’ll notice something particular…

A: Sure: you’ll notice the Modena yellow of the floor and the peculiar red of the ceiling. These are the Ferrari colours! It is a way of bringing some crucial aspects of the great modern Italian tradition and culture, which we honour just as much as the ancient one.

Claudio Strinati

Rome, May 2012

Some photos of the Palazzo del Tritone: