Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea
Milan, Italy, 1947-54, 1994-96 (reconstruction)
The PAC, designed by Ignazio Gardella between the late forties and early fifties, was inaugurated in 1954 as the exhibition venue of twentieth century civic art collections. It was the first modern Milanese building constructed from scratch to house a museum, but already from the end of the seventies it was used as a site for temporary exhibitions. Almost completely destroyed in the terrorist attack of 1993, the pavilion was rebuilt by the studio of the same Ignazio Gardella in 1996. The story of the pavilion’s construction began immediately after the war, when the Municipality of Milan decided to build a new pavilion of the Gallery of Modern Art on the site of the ancient stables of Villa Reale, which were destroyed by bombing in 1943. After a series of preliminary proposals, Ignazio Gardella presented his final project in 1949 and in 1950 work began. The new building, which was met with great interest by architectural critics, preserved without altering the remaining existent façades facing toward via Palestro and toward the Villa Reale, reusing the trapezoidal ruins of the ancient horse stables. The only façade which was redesigned, with extraordinary modernity, is the one overlooking the outside garden. Internally, the exhibition spaces are divided over three different floors. The first – originally intended for paintings – includes a series of parallel rooms closed diagonally by the external perimeter wall and open towards the central area of the gallery. Each of these spaces, covered by trusses supported with iron pillars and originally illuminated by a system of skylights and a false thin metal strip ceiling, are perceived as independent rooms in the shape of elongated hexagons. The second – the sculpture gallery – is a rectangular room with large windows that look out onto the garden and through which the outside light enters and winds around the works of art. The third floor, originally accommodating drawings and prints, is the upper gallery and is accessible by a cantilevered staircase that leads to the long balcony overlooking the rooms below. Despite being subdivided, all of the rooms are extraordinarily flexible and adapt to housing an assorted range of exhibitions – art, design, photography and graphics installations – without forfeiting the perception of spatial unity and fluidity. During the last reconstruction, the false ceiling made from thin aluminium strips was restored after being removed in the late seventies. This ceiling, however, and the air conditioning systems required by modern exhibitions have obscured the skylights in areas where the natural light filtering through contributed to intensifying the sense of ethereality of the interior space.The façade facing the garden is divided horizontally into two sections: the lower section is dominated by the emptiness of the long windows outlined against metal pillars, while the upper section is characterised by a continuous wall covered in dark red ceramic tiles against which a woven metallic grid, which slides up and down by means of a visible pulley system, is superimposed. In front of the façade, the group of sculptures “the seven wise men” by Fausto Melotti have been displayed since 1987.