‘Grotto’ in Milano Natural History Museum
Architects: Alessandro Musolino, Riccardo Orsini
Client: Politecnico di Milano
Status: Academic
Location: Milan, Italy
Coordinates: 45.472730, 9.202437
Climate: Humid subtropical, Temperate
Materials: Concrete, Stone
Environment: Urban
Visualizer: Studio
Scale: 8.000 ㎡ Medium
Types: Cultural, Museum, Refurbishment

In Milano, the Museum of Natural History is the institution where the representation of nature becomes narrative. The museum was conceived in the wake of the great explorations of the 18th century, under the influence of the Enlightenment ideology and presents nature arranged in glass cabinets and dioramas. This classification, carried out according to the human will to dominate nature through rationality, is hardly neutral, but the didactic simplicity of the resulting narrative has led to the crystallisation of the Natural History model to this day.

Due to the ‘broken’ relationship between humanity and nature and the focus on the current debate around environmental crisis, the museum has now the potential to gather parallel narratives and periodically convey the diverse meanings of nature. The addition of a new exhibition space explores a new spatial and perceptive dimension to depict an unmediated, immersive and experiential nature.

The illusory wish to simulate the autonomy of nature, free from human control, results in simulations that through the formless, a matter from which man has not yet identified a form, depicts the entropic dimension of nature. This is the case of the rocaille, a conglomerate material that simulates rocks, of the decorative rustico type and of the ‘grotto’, a reproduction of the ancestral space of a cave. All those representations stand on the boundary between a natural and an artificial act, between wilderness and civilisation.

The demolition of the central section of the museum, allowed by the relocation of offices and research laboratories to the attic floor, combines the two small courtyards into a unified space surrounded by the existing exhibition loop. The ‘grotto’ and the rocky garden shaped on its exterior surface interpret the tradition of rustico. Through the manipulation of the materials, applying artificial processes such as corrugations, excavations, moulds and folds, an attempt is made to capture the imprint of formless nature and rebuild its image.

Collaborator: Milano Natural History Museum curators (Mami Azuma, Monica Leonardi, Enrico Muzio) | Consultant: Cino Zucchi, Michael Jakob, Joseph Rigo | Post date: 13/10/2022 | Views: 1.514