The Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci is today made up of two parts: the building designed in the 1980s by the architect Italo Gamberini, and the extension created by the Maurice Nio/NIO Architecten studio of Rotterdam.
The new construction encircles Gamberini’s building, doubling its exhibition surface. The extension project has been conceived to potentiate and intensify the museum’s programs and cultural activities, and it fulfils the fundamental requirements of doubling the available exhibition space, allowing a more exhaustive presentation of the Centro Pecci’s permanent collection, subdivision of spaces, and alternation of projects.
The spaciousness of the new exhibition surface, which is of variable height and divided into two wings which narrow and connect to the present museum rooms, can also guarantee varying solutions and spatial modulations which suit the particular features of contemporary art works. The futuristic type of architecture designed by Nio wraps itself around Gamberini’s “culture factory” and effectively synthesizes the institution’s ambition to achieve a new centrality in a changing urban context, declaring its intention to open up and spread outwards.
Gamberini’s building is developed over a basement area which is used for the technical functions of the museum. Above this are two floors which alternate asymmetrical and symmetrical forms and organic and rational masses, following a segmented U ground plan which is closed off by the semicircular cavea of the open-air theatre and surrounded by a garden. Since 2003, spaces have been given over on the ground floor to artists’ projects and specific temporary interventions, alongside didactic workshops, the bar/restaurant and the auditorium, which have been located in this area since the inauguration. On the first floor are the reception area and the square museum rooms, which in 2003 underwent radical architectural restyling. The entrance to the first floor, preceded on the outside by an open bridge over one side of the garden, is connected on the inside through a tunnel covered by the side building, which contains small exhibition rooms for specialized, documentary exhibitions, the CID/Centro di Informazione e Documentazione sulle Arti library, and the offices. Further exhibition spaces have been created in the area below the seating tiers of the theatre.
Maurice Nio’s architectural project, Sensing the Waves, starts from an analysis of Italo Gamberini’s project and of the problems which have arisen during the use of the building. In the planning stage, the architect identified two problems: lack of continuity between the exhibition itineraries and circulation (the pre-existing itinerary of the building is linear, with a very definite direction which forces the visitor to continue along the same trajectory when they have finished seeing the exhibition); and the lack of visibility of the main entrance.
To tackle these problems, the Dutch architect started from the fascinating parallel between the museum and the imperial palace of Tokyo which, while being visible to everyone and extremely recognizable, is in practical terms inaccessible. The first problem was solved by creating a new itinerary on the first floor (where all the exhibition rooms are currently located), producing various circulation axes. The second problem was solved by concentrating all the public services (reception desk, information center, ticket office and bookshop) on the ground floor. Finally, the main entrance was clearly orientated towards the crossing point of the main roads.
The new extension of the Centro interacts with the character of the pre-existing buildings on the one hand as a rigid mechanistic intervention inspired by the textile workshops of Prato, on the other as “elastic” and dreamlike. The new extension surrounds the pre-existing building, cutting through it only where necessary along the exhibition circuit. Since the angling of the exhibition plane varies continually, spaces with differentiated atmospheres are created, suitable for presenting varying types of exhibition. The “tower” is a particular object of the new Centro Pecci, both a symbolic element and a self-standing object, resembling both a horn and an aerial. In fact for Maurice Nio it has the function both of a banner proudly flown for visitors and passers-by, and of a probe which captures cultural movements, constantly on the lookout for new currents and trends.
"Redevelopment of the Pecci Centre for contemporary art" is the project promoted by European Union under Tuscany POR FESR 2014-2020.