Palazzo dei Diamanti: beyond conservation, a rewriting that enriches the past
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Palazzo dei Diamanti: beyond conservation, a rewriting that enriches the past

The restoration, refurbishment, and remodeling of the exhibition spaces have been completed


Palazzo dei Diamanti: beyond conservation, a rewriting that enriches the past
By Editorial Staff -

Unlike painting, sculpture, and other art forms, architecture is a living art that can’t only be assessed in terms of its beauty. It’s an art that, to continue to exist, must be used and, if necessary, reinterpreted. Starting from this awareness, and a desire not to settle for a purely conservative restoration, Labics, founded by Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori, put together a project for the restoration, refurbishment, and remodeling of the interiors of Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara. The project represents a vision of how we can rewrite and enrich heritage properties handed down to us through history.

In 2017, the Municipality of Ferrara launched a tender for the restoration of this masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, designed by Biagio Rossetti in 1492 and the centerpiece of the so-called Addizione Erculea (an urban planning project dating from 1492). This resulted in the selection of Labics and 3TI Progetti for the building services and structures.

The designers’ starting point for planning the renovation of this building of great historical value was a museological rewriting intended to enhance the configuration of the building as well as create a better sequencing and continuity between the galleries. Some of the most significant work to achieve this can be seen in the connection between the two wings of the building – the Rossetti Wing and the Tisi Wing – and the construction of a long timber walkway outside. But it was the interior of the building as a whole that was the main focus of the project, the lack of attention to which had led over time to the two floors having different functions, with the upper level, which includes a hall of honor and the 16th-century apartment of Virginia de’ Medici, hosting the National Art Gallery of Ferrara, and the ground-level floor used since 1991 for temporary exhibitions by the Ferrara Art Foundation. All the changes involved in the project can be seen as an organic set of actions intended to conserve the building, its spatiality, and its intrinsic qualities, while also adapting its galleries to the needs of a modern museum.

To quote the studio itself, the museum is a wonderful palimpsest made up of afterthoughts, successive additions, and unfinished parts that can still be clearly seen today thanks to a renovation project that brought all the spaces together while giving the museum a clear structure it didn’t previously have.


A new continuity in pathways and the redevelopment of the garden

Palazzo dei Diamanti, cortili, Labics ©Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of Labics

At the heart of the restoration of Palazzo dei Diamanti was a need – shared by many contemporary exhibition facilities – for greater continuity and fluidity in its pathways. The reopening of the connection between the former Risorgimento museum and the main courtyard was an important factor in achieving this, with the connection between the courtyard and the rest of the structure also improved by the construction of a small loggia. The two wings of the building were connected externally by an essential charred wood structure that’s only partially enclosed by glass to allow a continuity between the Renaissance courtyard and the rear garden.

The wooden structure therefore forms a part of the garden itself, which has also been completely redesigned through collaboration between Labics and landscape architect Stefano Olivari. Reclaiming the division of the antique orchard into square and rectangular partitions reflected the arrangement shown in Bolzoni’s prints. The existing trees have been retained and intersect with the orthogonal lines of the antique orchard. This aesthetic coexistence of two opposites – regular and irregular – reveals the layering of the different historical eras. Two new elements have been added to the garden: the quincunx (a Roman system of cultivation in staggered rows) of holm oaks, which creates a filter between the garden and the building, and a circular pond, which reflects the sky and invites visitors to explore the bottom of the garden.


The restoration of the exhibition spaces

Palazzo dei Diamanti, sale, Labics ©Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of Labics

After assessing the state of the building and preliminary analyses, the restoration began with the consolidation of the exterior walls followed by the reorganization of the museum pathways and various galleries. The old walls were fitted with new high-tech, high-strength linings, which conceal the building services. In the Rossetti Wing, a new Venetian terrazzo floor was then laid, while new burnished brass portals were installed both here and in the Tisi Wing to signpost the sequence of spaces.

The second phase of the project involved the galleries of the former Risorgimento museum. These were fully renovated and their function transformed into museum amenities, including a cafeteria, bookshop, teaching room, and a multifunctional space. The interior courtyards were also restored with the addition of terracotta paving and reinterpreted as open-air exhibition spaces integrated into the museum pathways.

The work, which began in 2020, was completed in early 2023, marked by the opening of a major exhibition entitled The Renaissance in Ferrara: Ercole de’ Roberti and Lorenzo Costa, curated by Vittorio Sgarbi and Michele Danieli. The exhibition runs through June 19, 2023.

>>> Read an extract of an article published in THE PLAN 135 about the parish complex of San Giacomo Apostolo in Ferrara.


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Location: Ferrara, Italy
Architects: Labics
Client: Municipality of Ferrara
Structural and mechanical engineering: 3TI progetti
Restoration works: Elisabetta Fabbri
Set-up works: Giovanni de Vito
Landscape design: Stefano Olivari
Garden light design: Massimiliano Baldieri
Area Exhibition spaces: 790 m2
Exterior areas: 1,705 m2
Serving spaces: 693 m2

Photography by Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of Labics

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