The Plessi Museum, a multi-functional complex opened in June, stands out clearly along the Brennero motorway, high in the Alps near where Italy meets Austria. The architecture manifestly seeks to be visible, calling out to motorists and offering them a break from the road and a multi-faceted experience. Its location clearly turns it into somewhere to stop, relax and get something to eat, but it also offers a close up with the art of Fabrizio Plessi, a famed artist who designed the display and the internal layout. Before the internal borders came down in much of Europe (1995), it was common to end up waiting at a national border and here such time could have been spent immersing oneself in new experiences, relaxing and enjoying the Alpine landscape. The building has a rectangular plan and, through the elegant use of materials and shapes, it is a clearly recognisable and memorable edifice. For example, the seductive wing-shaped roof, with its slight tapering and metal panel cladding, rises above glazed walls that infuse the structure with transparency, allowing light to flood the inner spaces and wonderful views of the mountainous exterior. The choice of materials for the corners and northern elevation is characterised by density and opaqueness, bestowing on the building the sense of rigidity, gravity and rootedness that one might associate with an old plinth. The concrete blocks in the utility areas (bathrooms near the glazed entrance on the south side and the cafeteria area on the north side) are clad in stone slabs with a rough natural cleft finish echoing the surrounding landscape.
Inside, the focus shifts to the display area, with the architecture becoming a merger of art, atmosphere and colours that assists in the luminescent journey through the multiple sensations provided by the artwork. The main exhibition area sits slightly lower than the surrounding walkway, creating a space that is simultaneously concentrated and dynamic, especially as it rises two storeys (12.9 m). Fabrizio Plessi's major sculptural installation created for the World Expo in Hannover in 2000 is on display here, having been acquired by Autostrada del Brennero SpA (the company that runs the motorway). The work itself uses three elements, characterised by the choice of shapes and materials, to symbolise the provinces of Trento, Bolzano and Innsbruck. Then, using the image of water - a reference to the glaciers, lakes and streams that abound here - the unity of this mountain environment is hinted at. Nature and culture come together in this land of exchange and also in this somewhat experimental museum set along a major transport route with ancient historical links. These ideas can be found in the architecture itself, such as, the vertical containers made of Cor-ten near the entrance, which represent the forest through plant shapes. On the other side of the room, the large tables that form part of the shift from the display area to the cafeteria are decorated with images of nature, art and design to explore the metamorphosis of objects. The cafeteria follows a similar concept, with large Cor-ten steel display units, tables and benches (designed by Fabrizio Plessi) highlighted by glowing blue light that is a possible allusion to water changing state and to the centrality of water in many of the artist's works. On the upper floor, the conference and seminar area forms a sort of internal balcony overlooking the array of shapes and symbols that are woven together in the display area on the ground floor.
Location: Passo del Brennero, Bolzano
Client: Autostrada del Brennero
Gross Floor Area: 13.000 m2
Project: Carlo Costa - Autostrada del Brennero
Photography: © Oskar Da Riz
Born in 1965, Costa graduated in civil engineering (transport) from the University of Bologna. He is a senior technical director, director of several companies, and member of an industry commission. He has also been chief engineer of Autostrada del Brennero SpA since 2011. Civil and transport engineer, project manager, worksite safety manager, and inspector, he has an extensive background in the construction and refurbishment of civil constructions, roads, viaducts, tunnels, and technology. He has overseen a number of European projects, including Corvette (COoRdination and Validation of the dEployment of advanced Transport TElematic system, 2001–06) and Easyway (2007–09). He has written scientific articles on roads and transport, and lectures in infrastructure at conferences in Italy and internationally.