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Palazzo Pepoli - Museum of the History of Bologna - ARTE FIERA 2012

Museums | Genus

Of the city’s palaces, Pepoli Palace is one of the most austere and least pretentious. But it has been reinvented in a way that is decidedly impressive and spectacular. It is impossible to notice until you enter the brand new Museum of the History of Bologna. Here, in the middle of a large courtyard, a glass tower appears out of the blue and shoots up three stories to its transparent roof. Something that no one would expect to find behind a medieval facade. The tower is made up of four square pillars positioned at the sides of a nucleus filled by the stairs and elevator. This makes it so that, from almost any angle, to the eye of the observer a pair of high side-by-side structures appear, a clear homage to Bologna’s two towers, today affected by a slight instability. A part of the undeniable fascination that the tower (officially the Torre del Tempo (“Tower of Time”) inspires is due to the fact that, aside from its functional qualities, it is an aesthetically pleasing sculpted form. Mario Bellini, the architect who designed it, described it as a “lantern”, and in fact it was designed to play with the light that pours over its glass roof. 

«The tower’s glass presents many white points», says Bellini. «It is entirely white on the top, fading away as one moves down gradually until it is completely transparent at the base.  And there’s a reason for this; on sunny days the tower shines if looked down on from the top, because the lactescent glass gives off light, while instead when seen from the courtyard it becomes more and more incorporeal and evanescent, so much so that looks as if it were floating».
A true work of art, the tower may also be explored from within as one ascends. The lower floors house part of the materials on exhibit, and in that space – from behind the glass – it’s like entering a museum display. In a way one gets the sense of having crossed a boundary to enter a protected space. «As you ascend the staircase, a feeling of serenity should come over you», says Bellini. «And once you’ve reached the top floor, you discover that the space is lined by real bamboo trees. The top of the tower is washed with green thanks to the light that filters through the leaves. I love this effect. There are also benches where you can sit down and read or meditate». One of the museum’s most fascinating details is the flooring which stretches through all of the baroque halls of the exhibition space. At first glance, it seems like some kind of sumptuous black marble, but taking a second look, you realize that they are minute fragments of industrial metal – slivers of metal wire, pieces of tubing, undulated shavings, shiny filings -, comprising an enormous mass frozen in a still black sea. «We brought the palace back to life», concludes Bellini. «We were lucky to be able to bring it back to its original conditions, those preceding over a half century of negligence it had become the victim of. Now Pepoli Palace not only preserves Bologna's history within its walls, but its very rebirth has entered the pages of the city's history. This is something I am particularly proud of».
 
Article by Jonathan Bastable
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The vocation of Pepoli Palace and the Museum of the History of Bologna is that of retracing the line of history and culture and of art and science of the city of Bologna - for centuries a crossroads of knowledge and of visual and musical arts, and a hub of ideas and art. In a traditional museum it would not have been possible to take in the long process of change, to interpret the rich and complex heritage to be passed on to generations to come. These are the reasons behind the conception and creation of a museum experience in which the adoption of innovative tools bestows objects, works of art and documents with a role that goes beyond the static nature of the description, endowing these with a dynamic function in the eyes of the visitor. 

In fact, only this way is it possible to understand the events, history of great figures, customs and passions that have stirred the city – the peculiarities that have characterized it, the scientific merits, the institutional systems, the  arrangement of the territory, the events that over the centuries have brought it to assume a role of great significance in the history of Europe. Through its contents and the interconnections that it is capable of  transmitting, Palazzo Pepoli. The Museum of the History of Bologna therefore becomes a point of reference for interpreting the past, even remote, and the complex reality of the XIX and XX centuries. 
 
Article By Fabio Roversi Monaco, Chairman of the Museum of the City of Bologna

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