a look inside mario cucinella’s cavernous interiors for luigi rovati foundation in milan

The New art museum for the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan

In the autumn of 2022, Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA) unveiled their design for the new art museum of the Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan. The design introduced a series of cavernous underground galleries, carefully crafted to showcase both Etruscan and contemporary art. Now, nearly two years later, the museum stands as an open and hybrid space that breathes culture into the vibrant Italian city.

An exclusive film created by the team at Mario Cucinella Architects in collaboration with London-based filmmaker Tapio Snellman bears witness to the cultural significance of the project. The film takes viewers through the complete transformation of Milan’s historic 19th-century Palazzo Bocconi-Rizzoli-Carraro, showcasing how it contributes to the city’s cultural and civic landscape. 

a look inside mario cucinella's cavernous interiors for luigi rovati foundation in milan
the exterior of the Luigi Rovati Foundation | all images courtesy of Duccio Malagamba

Mario Cucinella Architects sculpts cave-like exhibition spaces

In 2015, the Luigi Rovati Foundation (find more here) commissioned Mario Cucinella Architects (find more here) to renovate and expand a historic 19th-century building located at Corso Venezia 52 in Milan. The project aimed to create new museum spaces while preserving the existing building’s characteristics.

The first phase of the project involved structural reinforcement and sub-foundation works to prepare for the excavation of two new basement floors. The building’s roof was partially demolished for structural reasons, and the structure was temporarily supported on foundation piles to allow for the construction of the new basement levels.

The below-ground space, accessed from the main entrance via a staircase made of pietra serena, a type of stone from Tuscany and Emilia, comprises three circular rooms and a large elliptical room. These semi-dark cave-like exhibition spaces are adorned with 30,000 individually designed stone segments, meticulously assembled to create a continuous and unified atmosphere.

The architectural design incorporates pietra serena, a stone extracted from deep quarries in Firenzuola, to create a space that appears as if it has been delicately carved out, akin to quarries turning into works of art. Each 5-centimeter thick stone segment, distanced 5 millimeters from its neighbors, forms horizontal stripes, providing the impression of suspension with reflective specks from Mica flakes, adding a play of light and shadow to the solid mass. The museum serves as a journey through time, connecting art, architecture, and civilization, showcasing the urban layouts of Etruscan cities and various aspects of their lives.

a look inside mario cucinella's cavernous interiors for luigi rovati foundation in milan
the entrance of the historic 19th-century building

Versatile Spaces Across Different Floors

The MCA team’s involvement in the project extended beyond architectural renovation, as they also took charge of designing display cases and collaborated with Fondazione Luigi Rovati and Prof. Salvatore Settis to craft the museography project. The exhibition windows and internal layouts meet international standards while introducing innovative museological elements. Furthermore, the upper floors of the building underwent refurbishment, with a restoration and repositioning of pre-existing boiserie and furnishings designed by architect Filippo Perego.

The museum encompasses diverse spaces spread across various floors, each catering to different purposes. The ground level accommodates the entrance hall, bookshop, ticket office, and a coffee bar/bistro. The mezzanine level houses the administrative offices of the Luigi Rovati Foundation. On the main floor, visitors can explore museum rooms displaying contemporary art exhibitions. The second floor is dedicated to hosting events and temporary exhibitions, providing a dynamic experience for patrons. Finally, the third floor houses a restaurant. 

An integral part of the restoration project, the outdoor garden was thoughtfully designed by Marilena Baggio. The garden artfully incorporates existing tree species and implements minimal irrigation to conserve water, contributing to the overall sustainable approach of the project.

a look inside mario cucinella's cavernous interiors for luigi rovati foundation in milan
the below-ground space, accessed from the main entrance via a staircase

a look inside mario cucinella's cavernous interiors for luigi rovati foundation in milan
the design incorporates pietra serena to create a delicately carved-out interior

a look inside mario cucinella's cavernous interiors for luigi rovati foundation in milan
the semi-dark cave-like exhibition spaces are adorned with 30,000 individually designed stone segments

a look inside mario cucinella's cavernous interiors for luigi rovati foundation in milan
the MCA team also took charge of designing display cases for the exhibition spaces

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