Museums | Restoration and Conservation

Museum of Etruscan Art

Milan | Italy

PROJECT DETAILS

City
Milan
Country
Italy
Customer
Luigi Rovati Foundation
Architectural design
MCA Mario Cucinella Architects
Period
2015 - 2022
Amount of works
9.850.000 €
Services Provided
Structure design | Construction management
Sector
Museums | Restoration and Conservation
Construction technique
Metal carpentry and reinforced concrete

An evocative architecture

The project, desired by the Luigi Rovati Foundation, stems from the idea that the restoration of the building should tell the story of the city of Milan and its protagonists.

The new Art Museum in Milan is an interdisciplinary museum that chronicles Etruscan art in dialogue with modern and contemporary artists. The exhibits are displayed in the spaces created inside the restored and re-functionalized historic 19th-century palazzo on Corso Venezia and in the newly created underground spaces, the most evocative part of the tour itinerary, inspired by the Etruscan tumuli of Cerveteri.

The museum overlooks the inner garden, where existing tree species have been preserved, characterized by slight earthen reliefs that mark the domes of the underground spaces. On the upper floors are exhibition spaces for temporary exhibitions, a conference room, a room dedicated to educational activities for children, and a restaurant.

The Neoclassical Palace at No. 52 Corso Venezia in Milan has undergone major renovations and now houses a permanent collection of 600 works from the Etruscan period. The restoration project curated by arch. Mario Cucinella, included the preservation of the historic elevations and volumes. The museum tour starts in the basement and continues to the upper floors. The domes of the hypogeum space, were built below the building, keeping it detached from the ground for the entire duration of the construction.

Indoor garden Museo di Arte Etrusca a Milano Fondazione Rovati
Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Rovati Foundation
Entrance Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati
The works of the Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati

An ancient and contemporary place

The project stems from the Luigi Rovati Foundation's desire to create a museum space within the historic 19th-century Bocconi-Rizzoli-Carraro building, a center for experimentation and research also intended to house various functions and an important collection of Etruscan artifacts.
The space dedicated to the Etruscan collection is located in the first basement level and is inspired by the Tombs of Cerveteri, some of the few pieces of Etruscan architecture still intact. It is also inspired by the Museum of the Treasure of San Lorenzo in Genoa, designed by Franco Albini and Franca Helg, which is located in the underground rooms behind the apse of Genoa Cathedral, also a contemporary insertion in a historical context.

A staircase made of Florentine pietra forte quarried from Tuscan-Emilian quarries leads to the hypogeal exhibition spaces: three circular halls and a large elliptical hall topped with domes, completely enveloped by 24,000 stone ashlars, designed and expertly laid one by one, with a formal continuity that gives the whole environment a sense of unity and fluidity.

The simplicity of the museum's wraparound forms contrasts with the triangular-based display cases, creating a scene of different materials and times that adds further dimension and depth to the museum experience.

Night view of the inner garden of the Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati
Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Rovati Foundation
Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Rovati Foundation
Interior Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Rovati Foundation
Detail interior Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati

Stone domes

The most distinctive element of the delicate restoration of the historic building at 52 Corso Venezia is undoubtedly the domes covered with pietra serena in the underground museum space. The roofing of these rooms recalls the shape of Etruscan necropolises and is created by the intersection of three lowered spherical domes with a large radius of curvature.
The complex geometry of the vaults of the hypogean domes imposed innovative technical choices for both the design of a concealing structure and the building and plant works and finishes. The domes are supported by calendered profiles made of semi-rigid metal carpentry. These ribs are mounted around the entire perimeter of the excavation and have a double adjustment system: vertical for the base and horizontal at the head, where they connect with the ground floor slab. A second order of fastening with a second independent adjustment on the ribs allows in turn the connection of the structures to the water-cut stone ashlars each different from the other.

Restoration of stone domes Museo di Arte Etrusca a Milano Fondazione Rovati
Restoration phases Museo di Arte Etrusca a Milano Fondazione Rovati
Restoration site Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Rovati Foundation
Construction site detail Museo di Arte Etrusca a Milano Fondazione Rovati
The most interesting technical aspect concerns the construction of the new basement spaces. These are two new floors created below the existing building and garden thanks to an innovative technique that literally "suspended" the building on steel micropiles before starting excavations under the existing foundations. All performed after relieving the load on the existing foundations by removal of all architectural finishes, partitions, floors and screeds, and demolition of the roof. Neighboring buildings were secured prior to excavation.

The building was suspended on concrete mix columns (jet grounding) and eight-meter micropiles planted in the underlying soil, and excavation was carried out. The deflection of the piles was counteracted by the partial construction of the floor at level -1 in the garden and under the building. When the excavation was completed, the foundation piles became piers, and a foundation slab was constructed. The system made it possible to safely excavate with deformations in the range of 5 mm to ensure static stability and to preserve the facades and floors without inducing cracks.
Building site new underground spaces Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati
Detail Building site of new underground spaces Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati
Building site new underground spaces Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati
Detail of pillars new underground spaces Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati
The Florentine pietra forte used to line the basement spaces was extracted from the Tuscan-Emilian quarries of Firenzuola. The end result recalls an environment obtained by subtraction of material just as it happens in quarries. The horizontal scanning of the stones and given by the ashlar size of 5 centimeters thick and the distance between ashlars of 5 millimeters between them.
Florentine pietra forte Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Rovati Foundation
Detail Strong Florentine stone Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Rovati Foundation
The domes required the development of a specific three-dimensional parametric model. The 24,000 ashlars were laser cut with numerically controlled machines, while sandblasting was done by hand by skilled craftsmen.
Restoration of domes Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Fondazione Rovati
Exhibition works Museum of Etruscan Art in Milan Rovati Foundation
"It is a new place, at the same time ancient and contemporary, and it takes on the responsibility of communicating art in a vision of continuity with our history."

Arch. Mario Cucinella

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