The Palazzo delle Esposizioni restoration project had two fundamental aims: to requalify the spaces and update them both at a functional and technological level, and to marry the monumental architecture of the original building designed by Piacentini with innovative contemporary elements.
The result is a perfect harmony between the monumentality of the building and the contemporaneity of the architecture.
The restoration began in 2003, on the basis of an integrated tender. Architect Firouz Galdo developed the final project, while architect Paolo Desideri was responsible for the executive project. The latter also designed the Serra, the stunning new 2000sq m restaurant with a capacity of 250. Architect Michele De Lucchi was the artistic director of the project, and also designed the lighting, furnishings and signage.
The technological update consisted in the installation of a new climatization system that conforms with the international technical standards set by the museums who lend works; more sophisticated security measures for the works themselves and visitors; and the consolidation of the building’s static structures by architect Paolo Rocchi, which involved lengthy and complex analyses and considerable reinforcement.
The cost of the restoration and consolidation work amounted to a total of 28 million euros.
The functional restructuring of the Palazzo consisted in, among other things, the expansion of commercial spaces and the creation of the Cinema, Auditorium and Forum, all equipped with state-of-the-art technologies.
The spaces are arranged as follows: the main commercial activities are concentrated on the ground floor, beneath the main exhibition space, at the Via Milano level. These include a bookshop, a centre specializing in art and related merchandising, a café and educational areas. The exhibition spaces are located on the upper floors and cover over 3000sq m.
Firouz Galdo and Michele De Lucchi studied in depth the problem of creating a fine balance between the artworks and the imposing architecture of the Palazzo. To prevent the building from encroaching on the works and vice versa, the exhibition spaces have been equipped with a system of vertical display walls that cover the actual walls of the rooms and create an ideal neutral, uniform background. This both defines the display space and prevents temporary exhibitions from invading the historical building – the monument – while, at the same time, isolating the layout from the decoration of the Palazzo. Greater visual comfort is ensured by the mobile ceilings containing the light fittings, especially designed by Michele De Lucchi, which are versatile, unify all the spaces and supplement, where necessary, the daylight entering through the skylights.
To facilitate access to exhibitions, the building has been equipped with new lifts for the public and another for the staff and transporting works, which departs from the storerooms, customs’ and other offices, and bypasses the exhibition rooms.
A great effort has been made, also financially, to find solutions to all the problems related to standard museum systems: from air quality to the control of microclimatic conditions to protect the works and ensure visitor comfort. New anti-intrusion and firefighting systems have also been installed.
It is only on entering the Palazzo, however, that the visitor will fully appreciate the restyling, which, along with a diversified, multidisciplinary cultural offer, make it a place for people of all tastes to enjoy at any time. Ours is a quality offer with wide appeal, founded on international collaboration and establishing a dialogue between Italian culture and that of the rest of the world.