Part of Venice’s famed Piazza San Marco will soon open its doors to the public for the first time in five centuries. Dezeen reports that Procuratie Vecchie, the oldest of three interconnected palaces on the square, will eventually become an arts venue and headquarters for The Human Safety Net, a nonprofit organization aimed at empowering disadvantaged individuals and communities around the world.

First, British architect David Chipperfield plans to renovate the palace, an undertaking that's expected to last until 2020. It has been the headquarters for Generali, an Italian insurer, since the mid-1800s, and the renovation will create new space for The Human Safety Net, a social initiative funded by Generali. When it reopens, the palace will host exhibitions and public programming related to the organization's mission, which is to help refugees and children growing up in poverty.

Courtesy David Chipperfield Architects

The three-story palace was rebuilt in the 16th century after the original 12th-century structure was damaged in a fire. Like the other palaces in the square, it was once home to Venice’s procurators, high-ranking government administrators. The renovation and repurposing of the building will make its interiors accessible to the public for the first time in 500 years.

Chipperfield has plenty of experience restoring historic buildings. He is currently at work restoring Berlin’s New National Gallery, a building originally designed by storied 20th-century architect Mies van der Rohe, and has previously repaired and restored other historic structures, like Berlin's 19th-century Neues Museum and a group of 11 colonial-era buildings in Shanghai.

The restoration of the Procuratie Vecchie will largely be interior, but it will also include recreating a historic route through the palace to the Royal Gardens on the waterfront—which Generali is also involved in restoring.

[h/t Dezeen]