Ferraris conjure speed, status, and seduction, so it’s fitting that a museum dedicated to the man behind the automobile evokes such notions through its striking form. However, the new Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, Italy, is not a private showroom devoted to the brand. Funded by the city of Modena as a gift to citizens and visitors, the Museum is a testament to the legacy of Motor Valley.
Navigating a complex context
The site for the Museum—near the city’s historic center but also surrounded by industrial developments—is significant because Ferrari was born there in a two-story early 19th century house with an adjoining workshop. The Museum’s program called for the restoration of the house and workshop and the construction of a new building to exhibit a collection of vintage cars including models by Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Stanguellini, De Tamaso, and Maserati—all manufactured in the area.
The initial shareholders of The Casa di Enzo Ferrari Foundation—the Municipality and Province of Modena, Modena Chamber of Commerce, Ferrari S.p.A., and Automobile Club d’Italia—requested in their brief a museum space that was “capable of transmitting the atmosphere and emotions associated with an heroic era in motoring.” However, they did not want a time capsule, but an eye-catching, contemporary work of architecture.
Jurors of an international competition selected a design by London-based Future Systems. Entitled “Open Hand,” the concept features a new building that responds to the adjacent Ferrari House, rising to approximately the same height and hugging its edge—a blend of history with modernity that is anything but subtle. The founder of Future Systems, Jan Kaplický, died in 2009 after the competition win and the Future Systems office was dissolved. But his associate, Andrea Morgante, now director of Shiro Studio of London, oversaw the completion of the design and its construction.
Inserting a new structure within the site necessitated a bold approach. “If you don’t create something that generates debate between people, then somehow you’ve already lost in terms of conveying a message,” believes Morgante. The new building’s most dynamic feature is its yellow aluminum roof that echoes the sensual curves of 1960s-era Ferraris. Ten curves in the roof surface resemble the car air intake vents that inspired them, allowing natural light to penetrate the museum’s interior.
A soft, meditative backdrop interior
In contrast to the bold exterior, the interior is soft and meditative. All-white surfaces blend together; the walls and ceiling are stretched with Barrisol, a semi-transparent PVC membrane. Future Systems sunk the interior volume partially, pulling visitors down a gently sloping ramp—not unlike sinking into the driver’s seat. The cars float on plinths, their glossy paint pops against the predominantly neutral backdrop, aside from the brief splashes of Modena yellow that enclose the bookshop, café, and washrooms. “Car museums often look very technical,” explains Morgante, “but we conceived the space more as an art gallery than a car museum—it’s the classic white cube, allowing visitors to appreciate the subtle tones of a certain blue, gray, or blood-red paint on the cars.”
The Enzo Ferrari Museum, with its racy roof and mystique embodied in the Ferrari name, will draw many visitors to Modena—and not just the automobiles fanatics. “The Museum has all it takes to become a dynamic cultural container able to arouse interest not only among engine enthusiasts but more generally among the younger generations,” says museum director Adriana Zini. “Our hope is that it will become a new symbol of Modenese modernity and identity in Italy and the world, capable of becoming a center of tourist attraction at an international level.”
Key Design Highlights
- White Barrisol, a semi-transparent PVC membrane, lines the interior walls, allowing the gallery space to be a blank canvas for the cars.
- Ten horizontal openings in the roof are like the car vents that inspired them. They allow natural light to penetrate the museum interior.
- The interior is partially below street level. Visitors descend a gently sloping ramp: The experience is analogous to sinking into a driver’s seat.
- The new, modern building wraps closely around the restored Ferrari house and workshop, where Enzo Ferrari was born and grew up.
Enzo Ferrari Museum
Designers Future Systems + Shiro Studio
Client Fondazione Casa Natale Enzo Ferrari
Where Modena, Italy
What 107,640 total square feet on two floors