PRATO – Although only a stone’s throw from Florence, Prato is not Florence, and its inhabitants do not like to be compared with the neighbouring Florentines. Proud of its industrial heritage, for the past 30 years the smaller city has devoted its efforts to becoming a first-rate centre for contemporary art. Centro Pecci, which opened in 1988, was established by local entrepreneur Enrico Pecci in memory of his son. Nearly three decades later, the size of the museum has doubled, thanks to financial aid from the European Cultural Foundation and the contribution of Dutch architect Maurice Nio, whose signature marks the striking extension of the original building.
Nio’s fluid volume makes a strong architectural impact and, at the same time, forms a bold contrast to the severe character of the existing museum. Impossible to miss, the extension stands out as an attention-grabbing object in an otherwise anonymous industrial environment. The designer calls his work ‘Sensing the Waves’. Its semicircular shape can be interpreted in various ways: as a ring, a disc, a spaceship, a lunar sliver – and its rising antenna might be seen as a sensor capable of intercepting and transmitting the creativity of the artists whose pieces appear inside the building.
New interior spaces are arranged on two levels within a volume that embraces the original building and joins it at both ends. Ground-floor facilities include a theatre, a cinema, a library and a restaurant whose glazed façades provide views of the city. The exterior surface of the upper level, used for temporary exhibitions, wears a warm, bronze-coloured metal cladding. Inside the building, transparency interacts with opacity, concavity with convexity, and lightness with heaviness. Contrasts that make Prato’s splendid landmark worth a visit.
Photos Lineashow/Nio Architecten
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