Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Pisa, Italy


Found in one of the most monumental, famous and significant squares in the world - Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, and in close symbiosis, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo holds a collection works that have been removed over time from the neighbouring buildings during restorations. It now bears witness to a thousand-year artistic history and the cultural relationships marking the city of Pisa over the centuries through its complex of Mediterranean cultures.A museum that "tells the story of a Cathedral still operating today", born in 1986 and now renewed completely to address present conservation needs and at the same time meet the new and varied requirements of communication. These are to maintain the original intentions of the clients, the stories of construction, the expressions of the many high-profile artists, the refinements and technical innovations of the various creations, the often exotic stories of the events underlying their acquisitions and uses.

Exhibition design

Developed by the same team - Florentine architects Natalini and Guicciardini and Magni - who in 2015 worked on the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo of Florence, the design “was built entirely around each individual work, varying the display methods from work to work with different meanings, and also different spaces, to facilitate their reading”.The courageous choices of materials and colours, based on a clear rejection of the “white cube” model. “The materials that you find in the Museum are both new, drawn from local history and in this case given a new meaning. These include encaustic painting, a technique widely found in the Duomo di Pisa that therefore is able to provide a new context to sculptures, formerly used for those colours, those finishes." And moreover, “Arenaria, Corian and resin are used for the floorings and some lightly gilded backgrounds. The latter of which evoke the apse and part of the ceiling of the Cathedral, both of which are fully gilded”.The sequence of displays, room after room, articulates the times of artistic history and the gradual refinements of early technological history.Coordinated by Prof. Marco Collareta, the museum programme follows an order that is more than chronological: the first floor of the building in fact offers a direct connection with the monuments in the square. From the Cathedral to the Leaning tower, the opening rooms are dedicated to the more large-scale sculptures of Pisa. Videos and graphics clarify the legacy of the past and the new Islamic and provincial influences. The first floor is dedicated to internal furnishings and sacred vestments. Passing through areas which are “more intimate, dense with mysticism”, the sculptures of the grand Pisan masters represent “peaks of absolute lyricism” and inspire contemplation and reflection.

The displays

Goppion – who also carried out the Museum's original design – were called on to create around thirty different models of display cabinet (inverted, tabled, raised, shuttered, island etc.), and 4 special armoured surrounds for the historic doors. All cabinets incorporate temperature, humidity and air quality control according to the requirements of the conservators and the delicacy of the works displayed. They also have alarm systems and glass fracture sensors. The proportions, quality and cut of the cabinet glass, the structures that hide the complex conservation mechanisms, enjoy a miraculous dialogue with both the grey-pearlescent tones of the walls, and with the polychrome traces of the frescoes and, on the upper floor, with the warmth of the displayed brickwork and the 19th-century wall decoration. As in any well-managed installation, the cabinets do not force themselves on your perception, but disappear, leaving just a comprehension of the works displayed and the narrative sequence of the museum according to its exhibition design.