Lifestyle Magazine

A Historic Hospital Becomes a Cultural Hub – The Controversy

By Reasonstodress

This is the story of a hospital built in Modena in the 1700s, that was operational for 251 years that is now becoming one of Europe’s largest and most important cultural centers.

Photo of the Ex-hospital Sant'Agostino From the Fondazione Fotografia Website http://www.fondazionefotografia.org

Photo of the Ex-hospital Sant’Agostino
From the Fondazione Fotografia Website http://www.fondazionefotografia.org

The Ex-Ospedale Sant’Agostino

 

Yesterday I shared what I wore while out with the family.  We headed to lunch in the centre and then along the Via Emilia (I’ll be writing about this in the future) to the Ex Ospedale Sant’Agostino.  This hospital, in Modena’s historic centre,  was built in 1753 and was used as a hospital for 251 YEARS until its facilities were moved to a new hospital.

 251 YEARS

wow

ReasonsToDress.com Controversy Ex-hospital Ex-Ospedale Sant'Agostino Gae Aulenti Modena Italy Cultural Centre

It was purchased by the Foundation “Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio Modena” and is undergoing one of the biggest urban requalification projects in history, becoming one of the largest cultural centres in all of Europe.

 

Right now a portion of the space is open and currently used for contemporary photography exhibits by the city’s Photography Foundation, the Fondazione Fotografia.  This temporary exhibition space, which is approximately 2,000 meters square (21,500 sq. feet) will be closed during the 4 year renovation. Here we are at the LAST exhibit for the next 3-4 years!

A Historic hospital becomes a Cultural Hub – The Controversy
A Historic hospital becomes a Cultural Hub – The Controversy
A Historic hospital becomes a Cultural Hub – The Controversy
A Historic hospital becomes a Cultural Hub – The Controversy
A Historic hospital becomes a Cultural Hub – The Controversy
A Historic hospital becomes a Cultural Hub – The Controversy

 

I’ve been many times to the temporary photography space at the Ex-hospital,  and I am always impressed not only with the quality of the exhibits but with the  cultural importance of the collections shown, I’ve seen photography super stars like Ansel Adams, Walter Chappel and Edward Weston.

ReasonsToDress.com Controversy Ex-hospital Ex-Ospedale Sant'Agostino Gae Aulenti Modena Italy Cultural Centre

Don’t touch!

 

Like all things in Italy you CANNOT TOUCH SOMETHING OLD WITHOUT PEOPLE GETTING ANGRY!  One of the things I used to hate about Italians was how slow they are to change.  Coming from North America, I felt lightning fast compared to them.  I accepted things quickly, adapted easily, and wanted to change things around at the drop of a hat.

 

Italians have this distrusting nature that leads them to question anything new.  They rely on the past and see change and the “unknown” as things to be cautious of.

 

….my my my how I’VE CHANGED in these 6 years in Italy

 

I’m becoming like them!

The things I hated about them I now love!  I don’t even want to shop at the grocery store because it is filled with “new” products that I just don’t trust!

And, in some ways I fear modernization because I worry that the traditional ways of doing things will be lost.

 

I now value SLOW.

 

Slow food, slow fashion, slow thinking, slow culture & slow evolutions

The best things are created over time.  Parmigiano Reggiano aged for three years, prosciutto crudo naturally dried over a year with no fans speeding up the process, traditional balsamic vinegar created over 35 years.  When things are done slowly they are done well.

 

I don’t know.  Maybe I feel this way because I hate McDonald’s and the fact that there are now three here makes me angry.  For many North Americans only having 3 McDonald’s in a city with thousands of people may seem like very few, but to Modenese there are three too many!

Or perhaps I feel this way because for the past 5 years I have been working with my husband and his artisan belt company that still does EVERYTHING 100% by hand.  I can see how they struggle to compete with the world’s cheaper and faster producers, but also long to do things to the BEST of their ability.  Their BEST isn’t always appreciated because to create something of exceptional quality means time, and time costs money.  Money…. that no one wants to dish out for work that is “not seen”  and therefore not appreciated.

 

Perhaps it is because my life, eating habits and values have changed.

 

I don’t even own a dryer.  My clothes no longer need to dry “quickly” they just need to dry eventually, and not shrink so they can last forever!

 

The Controversy

 

The controversy surrounding the re-qualification project of the Ex-Hospital are mainly 2 things.

N°1 – Two library towers

ReasonsToDress.com Controversy Ex-hospital Ex-Ospedale Sant'Agostino Gae Aulenti Modena Italy Cultural Centre

They will be completely different than the rest of the structure.  Tall “sky scrapers” of glass and metal will serve as automated libraries for the historic library collections of the city. 30 storeys tall (23 above ground and 7 underground),  with an automatic book retrieval system, temperature and humidity control and obviously earthquake proof (lest we forget what happened in this area 2 years ago)

 

N°2 – The Covered Courtyard

Image from The Gazzetta di Modena  http://gazzettadimodena.gelocal.it/foto-e-video/2011/02/26/fotogalleria/viaggio-virtuale-nel-polo-culturale-s-agostino-1.288470?p=4

Image from The Gazzetta di Modena
http://gazzettadimodena.gelocal.it/foto-e-video/2011/02/26/fotogalleria/viaggio-virtuale-nel-polo-culturale-s-agostino-1.288470?p=4

 

The current courtyard will be covered with a glass ceiling and turned into an indoor atrium.  Some people love this idea (hey it’s great when it rains) and some people hate this idea (“what? will this be a non-smoking atrium…that’s just bogus!”)

 

These two features, in my humble opinion, are those being contested the most.

 

Gae Aulenti

Image from Modenaonline.it

Image from Modenaonline.it

The chosen design is by the Studio Associato Doglioni e Daminato and  Gae Aulenti Architetti Associati which was headed by the late Milan Architect Gae Aulenti, a great in her own time.  She designed the Museu d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, the Musée d’Orsay in ParisCatalonia Museum of Artblank in Barcelona and the Musey D’oursy in Paris and the ex Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome.

 

The Project

The project will be MASSIVE.  23,000 square meters (approximately 247,500 square feet)  of space dedicated to CULTURE.  In fact they are calling the project  ”Un Polo Culturale” a “Culture Hub” because it will house:

polo-bibliotecario
 Libraries – Including the historic Estense and Poletti collections, with over 800,000 volumes.

polo-espositivo
Spaces for rare works, manuscrpts and  antique document from the 1700s

centro-per-la-fotografia-e-l-immagine
Photography and Image Centres – including exhibition spaces and a photography school. On the ground level there will be a “video bar” (how cool is that!)
centro-linguistico-per-l-internazionalizzazione
Centre for language and Internationalization – Including a 180 seat auditorium

attivita-commerciali
Commercial Spaces – Including a caffè, bookshop and restaurant 

teatro-anatomico
The Anatomy Theatre

farmacia-storica
The Historic Pharmacy

spazi-comuni-del-polo-culturale
Public spaces 

From the Sant'Agostino Website: http://santagostino.modena.it/sago/progettazione/gae-aulenti.html

From the Sant’Agostino Website:
http://santagostino.modena.it/sago/progettazione/gae-aulenti.html

 

Image from: http://www.edilportale.com/news/2009/07/concorsi/maxi-concorso-a-modena-per-l-ex-ospedale-sant-agostino_16180_30.html

Image from:
http://www.edilportale.com/news/2009/07/concorsi/maxi-concorso-a-modena-per-l-ex-ospedale-sant-agostino_16180_30.html

 

The Problem

 

The problem is that in Italy there are guidelines that all new buildings must follow in order to adhere to the cultural identity of the town and not stick out like sore thumbs or compromise the city’s historic skyline.

Imaged from http://fardiconto.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/la-ghirlandina-ritrovata/ This article shows the progression of the uncovering of the Ghirlandina after its restoration.

Imaged from http://fardiconto.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/la-ghirlandina-ritrovata/
This article shows the progression of the uncovering of the Ghirlandina after its restoration.

 

Modena is home to the Ghirlandina, a bell-tower beside the Duomo of Modena, built in the 1179, 835 years ago.  It is also  a UNESCO World Heritage site and the architectural restrictions in Modena state that no building can surpass it in the City’s historical centre.  It is 86 meters tall, so assuming that each story of the library towers is 3 meters tall, then each tower should be approximately 69 meters.

Approximately 17 meters shorter than the Ghirlandina, and the towers will be on the outside edge of the city, a considerable distance away from the tower in its centre.

 

HOWEVER, as I said before, as much as I am a fan of mixing old and new, and I understand the IMPORTANCE of new developments to improve on the lives of current Modena citizens, I am humbly reminded of this Modena Architectural blunder….and I quiver and the thought of another.

 

Giardino-Ducale-Estense C/o http://www.architetturaecosostenibile.it/

Giardino-Ducale-Estense
C/o http://www.architetturaecosostenibile.it/

 

Because once it’s built ….it’s built.

Remember this post?  I shared one of my favorite parks in the city the Public Estense Gardens. Right, smack dab in the middle of the historic greenhouse they built a big, UGLY apartment building. Photographers all over Modena have been getting more and moe creative with the angles of their photos of this beautiful building in order to crop out the eye sore behind it.

 

And yet there it is.  Ruining perfection.

 

I love projects that integrate new architecture with historic buildings, but I am also sensitive to how landscape changes with urban regeneration and renewal.

 

What about a test-run?

 

We can do anything with lasers these days, I don’t see why they can’t recreate two towers to better evaluate how the skyline of the city will change from all angles.

 

Aside from a little it of apprehension about the height of the towers, I think they are a fantastic idea and are a much needed addition to the city for their FUNCTION.

In general, I really like Gae Aulenti’s project and think that this space will become the most important cultural space in Modena if not in all of Italy.

 

These are some images of the interior and exterior spaces that I took during my last stroll through the Ex-Ospedale Sant’Agostino.  In 3-4 years we can compare them to the new space!

 

ReasonsToDress.com Controversy Ex-hospital Ex-Ospedale Sant'Agostino Gae Aulenti Modena Italy Cultural Centre

ReasonsToDress.com Controversy Ex-hospital Ex-Ospedale Sant'Agostino Gae Aulenti Modena Italy Cultural Centre

ReasonsToDress.com Controversy Ex-hospital Ex-Ospedale Sant'Agostino Gae Aulenti Modena Italy Cultural Centre

ReasonsToDress.com Controversy Ex-hospital Ex-Ospedale Sant'Agostino Gae Aulenti Modena Italy Cultural Centre

REASONS TO DRESS

 

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