It's a given that car enthusiasts will flock to the Enzo Ferrari Museum, but the museum itself, with is aluminum skin and geothermal wells, is cool enough to draw the eye of anyone interested in architecture or design.
In 2004, the city of Modena wanted to honor its greatest resident, Ferrari. They contracted Czech architect Jan Kaplický, founder of Future Systems to design a museum for Enzo. Eight years and $17.6 million dollars (€14.2 million) later, we have the finished article.
The museum is built in two parts: there is Enzo Ferrari's family home and adjoined workshop, as well as the new building enveloping the old structure. Architect Magazine notes that it is amazing how well everything goes together.
Its bulging crest is slit by 10 protruding gills, evoking the molded metal skin and air vents of car bodies without making literal reference to them. Despite the new structure's extroverted form, color, and technology, Kaplický conceived it as a passive addition, like an open hand protecting the L-shaped complex of original buildings. It is parked discretely, like a very expensive car, in the background.
That 3,300-square-meter (35,521-square-foot) roof is constructed with the shipbuilding technique of tongue-in-groove joinery, a favorite style of Kaplický. The whole structure is supported by a vaulted metal spaceframe, not unlike many of Ferrari's older racecars. It gave the whole building enough strength to survive this year's earthquake in the region with ease.
Here the technology reaches its apex with the glass panels tilting 12.5 degrees inward as they rise, attached at their corners to a custom-designed joint that, on the interior surface, slips around a vertical, pre-tensioned steel cable, like those used on suspension bridges. On the exterior, the same joint sustains rows of black aluminum louvers that help reduce glare.
The benefit of this massive vaulted roof and spans of glass is that the museum enjoys a massive and bright interior hall. The effect is magnified by the slope of the floor, which falls 5 meters (16.4 feet) from front to rear. The slope also exposes a cutout ground-level floor, housing a conference room and a small theater.
Architect Magazine explains that the dominant feature of the museum, however, are the 19 cars set up in the churchlike hall.
The constant slope helps to offset the podia for the 19 automobiles on display (the exhibition will be changed periodically with loans from private collections). Each car has been set on a rectangular plate balanced on a half-meter-high drum so that they do not appear to be parked but indeed resemble sculptures.
Still, we wouldn't be surprised if many visitors were just as impressed by the building's construction than the classic cars. The central display area is particularly well done, designed by Andrea Morgante of London's Shiro-Studio, the architect in charge of the museum's completion after Kaplický's death in 2009.
He inserted majestic X-shaped steel braces on slender spider-leg poles beneath the timber beams of the shed for seismic protection (recently put to the test with the region's earthquakes in early May). He divided the long room with a narrow technical chamber for multi-image projectors and hung off of it dozens of differently curved flanges, supposedly suggesting the pages of the biography of Enzo Ferrari, although they seem more like the rhythmic legs of a giant centipede.
This museum to Enzo Ferrari stands on its own as a fantastically forward-thinking building, but compare it to other noteworthy car museums and it jumps out as something spectacular. BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche have the most famous car museums in Europe, but they come off as sterile and somewhat brutal compared to Kaplický's design.
The Ferrari museum is more effortless and more striking at the same time. It may even outdo the gorgeous "America's Car Museum," in Tacoma, Wash.
If we ever find ourselves in Italy, hell, anywhere in continental Europe, we think we're going to have to make a pilgrimage to Modena to see this museum in the flesh. It's awesome.
Photo Credits: Shiro-Studio via Architect Magazine