How to transform a 18th– century hospital complex into a multidisciplinary cultural hub?
The answer is the masterplan for AGO Modena Fabbriche Culturali by CRA – Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota, a new cultural and innovation hub that features a kinetic roof designed with artist-engineer Chuck Hoberman, part of a broader, progressive vision for the restoration of historical buildings.
In fact, the design features a triangular-shaped plaza topped with an origami-like movable roof, that represents the flexibility of the building to adapt to changing future configurations.
Measuring 20,000 square-meter (210,000 square-foot), the project by CRA and Italo Rota enhances the transformative qualities of kinetic architecture, which is normally employed in temporary installations.
This is best characterized by one of AGO’s main courtyards, where the kinetic roof creates a multitude of spatial experiences. Lightweight and foldable, it opens and closes easily like origami, transforming this long-neglected courtyard into a social space adaptable to various climatic conditions and functions. Photovoltaic panels will also be installed on the new structure to harvest solar energy to help power the complex.
“Cultural places should be thought of as dynamic, capable of incorporating change over time,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “The changing nature of the built environment enables, in turn, a participatory approach to activate cultural production. AGO’s architecture sets up flexible, reconfigurable spaces where past and future complement each other.”
Historical and contemporary elements are also present in other parts of the complex. Through the impressive “Tenaglie” corridors – whose name derives from their distinctive pincer-like vaults – visitors arrive at the chimney courtyard. Here, another kinetic installation leads people to a new rooftop terrace, now transformed into a garden where one can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Modena’s old house roofs and church domes.
The AGO site is situated at the entrance to Modena’s medieval city center, whose monuments are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. When completed, it will become a location that unites various institutions in visual arts, digital culture and educational experimentation, hosting numerous entities across many disciplines, including the Modena Visual Arts Foundation, the Museo della Figurina dedicated to collectible cards, and the Interdepartmental Research Center on Digital Humanities.