We are History: Palazzo Pepoli – Museum of the History of Bologna
Architects: Mario Bellini with Giorgio Origlia
Architectural design: Giovanni Cappelletti (installations design), Italo Lupi (graphic design)
Location: Via Castiglione 8, 40124 Bologna, Italy
In 2003, the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna purchased the palazzo with a view to turning it into the museum of the history of the city. With the museum’s opening, we have completion of the project known as Genus Bononiae, the unitary museum system involving many locations within one of the most interesting historic city centres in the world. As Prof. Fabio Roversi-Monaco, president of this institution, observes, “Thanks to the synergy with internationally renowned consultants, we have discovered a new way of experiencing culture through the process of creating original, innovative itineraries to illustrate the architecture, art, and social and institutional history and development of a glorious community”.
The philosophy behind the project inspired the decision to sharply separate the container (Palazzo Pepoli) from the content (the history of Bologna), also in order not to have visitors blur the distinctions between the two narrations and thus lose the ‘plot’. To this end, Mario Bellini planned for inclusion of three types of narrator-cabinets, to turn our experience of a visit to a museum into a spectacular, emotionally charged event.
Three types of communication elements
The three-dimensional cage has been constructed with coated steel square-section (25 x 25 mm) tubes. Inside the cage, we find the works of the museum’s collection, which are thus showcased in structures which isolate the work and underscore its position within the narrative fabric of the museum and of the museum’s itinerary. The square-section of the tubes houses the (strip and spot) lighting system. A dimmer – in the cabinet’s support – allows us to adjust the quantities of warm and cool light emitted by the LED strips. This option means the right light mix can be found for all pictures, on the basis of the prevailing colours of the works. The LED spotlights isolate and pick out significant details.
Here too, throughout the museum – just as we find in cinemas – all the surfaces of the palazzo-container are, as it were, ‘set back’. Suddenly, when the visit is over, as if by magic, the container then commands our attention once more. It is then, as we emerge once more and find ourselves back in the old city street, Via Castiglione, that we experience the shock of realisation that we are History.
Principal: Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna and Museo della Città Srl
Procedure: international competition, by invitation, 2003
Design period: 2004-2007
Construction in progress: 2007-2012
Termination of works: 2012
Opening: 27 January 2012
Museum design and construction: Massimo Negri
Structural design: Prof. Massimo Majowiecki
Installations design: Sandro Salvigni, Sante Mazzacane
Site management: Alessio Zanichelli (2007/2009), Marco Bruni (2009/2012)
Assistant to Site manager: Claudio Gandolfi
Cost: 17,000,000 Euros (restoration of building); 4,200,000 Euros (installations)
Overall surface area: 6,180 m²
Overall exhibitions surface area: 3,100 m²
Services surface area: 3,080 m²
Total length of visitor itinerary: 870 m
Visitors (year 1): 120,000