Museo del Novecento
The Municipality of Milan announced an international architectural design competition for the expansion of the “Museo del Novecento”. The building complex of the museum overlooks the Cathedral Square (“Piazza del Duomo”). The cultural institute is traditionally a popular tourist destination. The main objective of the design competition is to modernise and reorganise the museum’s visitor spaces, and, in order to facilitate this, to connect the separate buildings of the institution with a new bridge. The first prize of the international competition went to Sonia Calzoni.
The renovation of the “Museo del Novecento” goes beyond the simple transformation of the Arengario buildings. The building complex flanking the southern part of the Cathedral Square is a prominent feature of the city landscape and its current state is already a piece of architecture that radiates plenitude. Connecting the already existing buildings by a bridge is a representative element which influences the cityscape and requires an especially careful architectural formulation. In our plan the functional connection of the two buildings is achieved by a bridge whose distinctive character is defined by a tower. The connection is thus essentially established by a symbolically prominent tower, which also accentuates the museum’s presence in the city.
We planned minor interventions in the current museum building (First Arengario), to introduce subtle corrections to the visitors’ route. The western wing of the building to be included as an exhibition space (Second Arengario) is currently used as an office building and is closed to the public. By means of the new connection, the exhibition route follows chronology from Sala Fontana to the Second Arengario, which has been reorganised internally with great attention to preserving and reconstructing the original spaces. Crossing the bridge, a high-ceilinged space will accommodate the works of the award-winning artists, with an outdoor exhibition possibility on the adjacent terrace. The middle floor of the building will house an exhibition of post-1980s art. At the end of the exhibition, in the ground floor hall a new bookshop has been set up which, together with the café and the auditorium providing space for concerts and performances, can operate independently of the museum.
The tower’s architecture is based on the appearance of the Arengario façade, and its formation reflects the museum’s contemporary artistic content. Its structure towers above the buildings with an independent foundation, also taking into account the archeological remains. The glazed bridge structure reduces the necessary interventions to the Arengario buildings to a minimum, since the span of the bridge is minimised by the tower.
The response to the connection not only reflects the Arengario buildings, but also relies on the city’s broader historical and cultural layers. In the history of the Cathedral Square’s design the thought of a tower is a recurrent element, which ultimately has taken shape in the restrained and adaptable scale of the current buildings. However, a number of tower designs are also known from early-century design competitions, which would have risen above the city with different contents, for example as a campanile for the cathedral. The idea of the tower also evokes earlier historical concepts: its mass not only establishes a link between the two buildings, but also represents a worthy gateway to the Cathedral Square, similarly to the gateway of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Rising as a pair of Torre Martini, the tower is the new symbol of the “Museo del Novecento” in the city.