Museo di Castelvecchio

Central part of the East Wing and new Mosaic Room Verona / Italy / 2017

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Filippo Bricolo’s project  (Bricolo Falsarella Associates) for the Castelvecchio Museum regards the restoral of the central part of the East Wing which was left  unfinished by Carlo Scarpa’s masterful restoration in 1964. The fulcrum of the intervention is the new Mosaic Room designed to host a large fragment of Roman pavement from a second century AD domus which was discovered  in the little square located on the east side of the castle between the ancient Via Postumia and the River Adige.

The new exhibition hall is connected to the main courtyard of the castle through a high access space that also serves as the entrance to Sala Boggian. The latter  is an area used for exhibitions and conferences on the first floor and accessible via an imposing staircase.

A large and very thin iron panel delimits the dual nature of the hallway: on the one hand it acts as a necessary filter leading to the new Mosaic room and on the other hand, it indicates the way to the room on the first floor.

The panel seems to brush against the floor and the steps of the stairs  and it bears two strategic, horizontal incisions on opposite sides thus indicating the two different directions. Above the incisions the words "Mosaic Room" and "Sala Boggian"  are written in iron out of the fonts  designed, but never used, by Scarpa for the concert hall entrance.

On a second level regarding the panel, is an archway formed by four,  10 mm thick, black iron plates. Two of the sheets are placed on the vertical sides, one is laid on the floor and the another is suspended to form a ceiling.

The archway has the role of determining a small ritual of access to the Mosaic Room. This is necessary in order to create an emotional gradient between the entrance hall and the exhibition space. The plates were inserted in the large existing gap brushing against the side walls and positioned  below the upper arc.

Regarding lighting, the archway makes use of black iron’s reflectance characteristics  to create  dialogue between the two spaces. Standing in the entrance hall, the visible side of the archway reflects the warm lights of the Mosaic Room casting them towards the entrance area .

Iron also highlights the changing light at different times of day until they are unexpectedly warmed up by the onset of dusk. In the Mosaic Room, the same vertical side reflects the lights and colours of the museum’s courtyard into the Mosaic Room. In this way, the gateways becomes a hinge of reflections.

This new threshold becomes a narrative device that divides but unites, that reveals  but slows down, that creates distance but invites you to walk through.

Mosaic Room
Inside the new exhibition hall, the great mosaic seems to levitate in the bountiful space. The hall is characterized by high walls made of brick. The bricks were deliberately left visible without changing or deleting  the patina of time. This helps to create a dialogue between the walls and the materiality of the ancient Roman floor.

The mosaic has been inserted diagonally into the space so as to be seen in its entirety from inside the room. This collocation also allows us to appreciate the view of the  mosaic from  outside the castle.

This view is in fact permitted by the sole intervention carried out by Scarpa in this space: a system of doors, consisting of a large window and a compass in burnt wood, that connect  the museum to Gavi Arch Square (moved here in 1932 from its original location in the nearby Via Postumia).

The Roman domus and the mosaic itself were discovered in this little square. Through this visual and physical connection, Filippo Bricolo’s project gives sense to Scarpa’s intervention and triggers a very strong and important link between where the Mosaic was discovered and where it is kept and exhibited  within the Castelvecchio Museum.

In order to poetically highlight the nature of this fragment, the mosaic was exposed without affixing new frames to its outline. The mosaic’s uneven edges communicate with the space of the room that was purposely left in the shadows. This choice of evocative nature seems to give voice and presence to the missing parts of the floor that were not found.

The mosaic is exhibited at a slight tilt, resembling  almost a lectern, so that the observer can see it better and avoid misunderstandings as to its original position. The artefact is fixed on an iron frame, designed and made in a workshop from a prominent photo plan. The framework stops before the frayed edges and is propped up by an iron tripod in a retracted position so as to support the great weight without being visible.

This location offers a new interpretation of the interaction between framework and artefacts of which the Castelvecchio Museum is a remarkable compendium. This set-up tests the possibility of the  total disappearance of the exhibitor’s presence in order to eliminate any contamination with the work, leaving  open only a dialogue with the architectural space in which it is housed.

The set-up is totally reversible and the mosaic could be moved in the future. After it will have been moved, the space it will look as if the set-up had never existed.

The connecting room to the offices
Next to the Mosaic Room there is a connecting room that leads to the area of ​​the Museum offices.

Before the restoration, this space, contrary to the entrance hall and the Mosaic Room, appeared devoid of quality. Lavatories had been built using plaster that did not do service to the value of the museum as well as plasterboard walls that blocked the view of the wide vertical space and the great arch leading to the offices.

The project foresaw the removal of all these additions and the plaster, to reveal the hidden architecture and walls of the room. The unveiled walls allowed us to reconstruct the complex events related to the stratification of this building, showing signs of ancient structure failures that were resewn, demolition and reconstructions. These complex and heterogeneous masonry layers were left in plain view but in a manner as not to create too much contrast.

All of the walls were first consolidated and then covered with a kind of glaze obtained by reinterpreting the ancient technique of “sagramatura” created by mixing in precise doses, sifted sand, marble dust (Mori Yellow), NHL 5 lime, Roman lime and lime putty . This finish was obtained by spreading the mix with the help of a sponge and finishing the surface with wire brushes.

The renovation has restored dignity to this connecting room, enhancing the (until recently unexpressed) potential of this space which is used daily by museum staff, scholars and associates as they move from the north part of the castle  to the south part.

An area  on the side facing the square has been converted into lavatories and it is concealed by burned pitch-pine panelling, the same materials used by Scarpa to make the compass now present in the Mosaic Hall.

The wall defining the space of the lavatories is very low and most of the room has been calibrated so as to slide compositionally under the existing arc.

The arc continues inside forming an intimate space where  an evocative circular mirror has been placed and a washbasin with an overflow feature.

Two handles, obtained by shifting upward a an iron plate as high as the wooden wall, indicates the location of the doors which are otherwise not visible.

At the point where the handle slides up the pitch-pine wood has not been burned, highlighting its original and typical orange colour, which is exactly what happens in the middle of Scarpa’s compass. A second washbasin, based on the same principle, is inserted into the niche of a splayed window that looks out onto the square.

Outside the lavatories, in a niche re-discovered during work, a free-standing washbasin has been placed created using massive, stone blocks from Lessinia. Each segment is as high as a lytic end of excavation and the top of the last ashlar has a typical split slates finish.

The lights above the washbasin are positioned so as to project the shape of the “vesica piscis”, the ogival symbol recurrent in Carlo Scarpa’s work.

Concrete was used to create the pavement in this area in order to highlight the fact that it is not an original feature. The floor has a rough finish, specifically designed by Studio Bricolo Falsarella so as to dialogue with the strong materiality of the walls from which it is detached by a metal plate which forms a dark fissure.

A black, splayed,  iron archway leads to the offices, that can be reached through a door covered in black metal.

The project’s theme is the interaction  between opaque or reflective surfaces.

The existing bricks in some cases are juxtaposed with iron surfaces.

In some cases these textural dialogues have various voices: plaster, brickwork, surfaces in black iron.

The brick and stone walls tell the history of the building while the reflective surfaces insert the themes movement, transition and visitors' shadows into the project.

Towards the courtyard built by Carlo Scarpa, the new archway quietly announces itself.  

From the entrance hall, an interaction is created between the new archway and Scarpa’s windows placed on opposite sides of the room.

The incision in the big panel interacts with the peephole inserted by Scarpa in his compass which looks towards Gavi Arch square.

Different  iron finishes also create interaction between the new surfaces.


Project and Construction management:
Filippo Bricolo - Studio Bricolo Falsarella Associati
(Associates: Francesca Falsarella, Simone Sala, Elisa Bettinazzi, Giacomo Scabbio)
Procedure Manager - City of Verona _: Sergio Menon
RUP associate – City of Verona: Viviana Tagetto

Coordination Manager of Museums and Monuments: Paola Marini, Margherita Bolla

Maintenance section and exhibition of Arts Museum and Monuments: Alba Di Lieto, Ketty Bertolaso, Fabio Guardini

Safety coordinator: Andrea Malesani
Structurale advisor: Maurizio Cossato
Construction works - blacksmith: Avesani Assistenza di Avesani Stefano
Restoration and set up of the mosaic:  Lares - Lavori di restauro
Building work:  Bernabè e Ballarin
Plumbing work: Franco Vassanelli
Installation works: Termosanitaria Pasinato
Stone washbasin: Guardini Pietre
Captions:  Ketty Bertolaso, Margherita Bolla, Studio Bricolo Falsarella Associati
Mosaic is granted on deposit by the Superintendency

Many thanks to the Superintendents: Fabrizio Magani and Simonetta Bonomi and to the "funzionario archeologo" Brunello Bruno.

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    Filippo Bricolo’s project  (Bricolo Falsarella Associates) for the Castelvecchio Museum regards the restoral of the central part of the East Wing which was left  unfinished by Carlo Scarpa’s masterful restoration in 1964. The fulcrum of the intervention is the new Mosaic Room designed to host a large fragment of Roman pavement from a second century AD domus which was discovered  in the little square located on the east side of the castle between the ancient Via...

    Project details
    • Year 2017
    • Work finished in 2017
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Museums / Recovery/Restoration of Historic Buildings
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