Design and realization of the display case “Cartoon of the School of Athens” by Raphael

March 2019

The largest single-door vitrine in the world, this is the display system created exclusively by Goppion for the exhibition of the Cartoon of the School of Athens by Raphael at the Ambrosian Library in Milan. The size of the display case surpasses some of the greatest achievements designed by Goppion in the past, such as that of the Ardabil rug in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and the two cases created specifically for the paintings Victoria 1 and Victoria 2 by Gerhard Richter in the ERGO Versicherungsgruppe headquarters in Düsseldorf.

Designed by the architect Stefano Boeri, the vitrine is a one-of-a-kind experimental creation, engineered and produced via a long series of tests that necessitated structural and functional modifications during its realization.

Structural and mechanical engineers and kinematics experts were called upon to resolve some critical issues. The floor of the exhibition hall represented one of the major problems: because of the historical nature of the building, it has a very limited load capacity, presents marked deviations from flatness, and is subject to bending. These characteristics had to be mitigated as best possible to assure the necessary precision of the case’s opening systems.

Using the most advanced technological solutions to satisfy the requests of the exhibition designer, Goppion designed a hydraulic damping system able to compensate for the unevenness and bending of the floor. Another challenge was posed by the unusual dimensions of the door, due to an unfavorable geometry, and the consequent increase in effective loads. The technique devised to meet this challenge was the use of a single pane of laminated glass expressly produced and transported from the factory with special vehicles that raised it directly inside the room through a purposely created opening in the external wall. To ensure the safe mounting of the work, the support frame was fixed on a structure that rotates on special hinges with thrust bearings, so as to allow complete inspection of the back of the cartoon with the display case open.

In addition to the cartoon’s safety, its optimal degree of conservation was a fundamental issue on which Goppion worked incessantly.

The tightly sealed vitrine (the change of air between interior and exterior takes 30 days) is equipped with a relative humidity stabilization system using a hygroscopic buffering material and a recirculation system with flow diffusion by means of intake and outtake ducts. A second circuit is dedicated to the air quality, ensured by the use of staged Goppion air filters that intercept solid and chemical particulates and gaseous pollutants that could harm the work. The system is also equipped with a data logger for the detection, recording and wi-fi transmission of the micro-environmental conditions (temperature and relative humidity).