Franco Albini, Franca Helg
curated by C. Marcenaro
Gallery of Palazzo Rosso
Palazzo Rosso, built between 1671 and 1677, was donated in the late nineteenth century to the city of Genoa by the Duchess of Galliera, together with her rich collections of art.
In 1952, Franco Albini, together with Franca Helg, began the restoration of the building and the setting up of the museum. Upon completing the work, the rooms of the museum were organised, as with Palazzo Bianco, under the direction of Caterina Marcenaro, who was in charge of museums in the Ligurian city.
The continuity and transparencies of the building’s Baroque architecture were restored by removing partition walls, which had been erected after the building’s construction and which obstructed the porticoes and loggias, replacing them with large glass windows. In the west wing, a new octagonal staircase supported by metal tie rods was built, representing a symbol of Albini’s work and a synthesis of his architectural poetics. Today that same staircase no longer appears aerial and transparent, since a series of changes have been imposed by health and safety rules, which, despite being reversible, have undermined the original lightness of Albini’s vision. A further strength of the refurbishment is the choice of colours inside the building. Red felt is used to cover the flooring on the second floor, the “piano nobile” (literally the noble floor). This contrasts with the natural-coloured wood and metals used to form the joints and tie rods complementing the black uprights from which paintings are hung from the vaults. The lighting system, comprising light projectors suspended on metal arms, is avant-garde and technically versatile, enabling the display of a variety of works. The attic of Palazzo Rosso houses the flat designed for Caterina Marcenaro, in which objects and furniture of great artistic and decorative value are admirably integrated to form the living space. In 1957, in an essay dedicated to the architecture of Franco Albini published by the Zodiac magazine, Giuseppe Samonà commented in relation to museums in Genoa, stating “accidentalness is illuminating to the continuity of the work of this great present day Italian architect, as it makes the values even more operative and concrete, since it shows how Franco Albini has extraordinary lyrical talent, which he expresses in exceptional poetry only in those rare compositions that justify an exceptional abandonment to pure fantasy”.