In 2015 Alfa Romeo re-opened its factory museum in Arese near Milan. A feature of existing and brand new architecture which reconnects the past and the present of Alfa Romeo
The museum site in Arese once was the heart of Alfa Romeo. In the nineteen sixties an architectural pearl arises next to the factory. Consisting of five similar looking blocks, management, development and so on find their home in the new head quarters. In 1976 the last of the five constructions is finished. On the outside it looks just like the other four, inside we find Alfa Romeo’s brand new factory museum. Not aimed at the general public, but mainly used to woe the companies own splendour, the factory’s impressive collection finally finds a place. Subsequent takeovers of Alfa Romeo by investors and in the end Fiat, ensure that the once groundbreaking office buildings become superfluous. In 2009 the museum closes its doors and like the rest of the site, time swiftly takes its toll on the buildings.
In the second decade of the new century, the extraordinary architecture of the Alfa Romeo headquarters are reason for a second chance. With the 2015 world exhibition coming to the Milan region one swiftly turns to renovating the once so glorious site. Thus meaning a re-opening of the Alfa Romeo museum would well be a great addition to the project. Architects jump onto the project, targeting on re-opening the museum in time for the world exhibition. They have less than a year. The building itself has suffered severely, the once groundbreaking artificial marble floors can not be saved. In close cooperation with the Italian historical building preservation organisation one looks for a replacement for the original materials. Looking for a material that like before will perfectly mimic the deep black of the Italian asphalt that makes the deep red paintwork of the Alfa’s stand out so well. And all of that within that ridiculously short time frame. The Italian artificial stone flooring firm Granito Fiandre is the guardian angel of the project. In their assortment they have a stone that fits all the requirements and can be produced in time.
Those who visit the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese these days will stumble upon a highly modern museum that will not renounce its heritage. The syntheses of the existing architecture with the interventions that intertwine the new museum within the rest of the site has succeeded almost miraculously. Like a red snake, a very conscious link to the Biscione Visconti, the snake in Alfa Romeo’s logo, a covered gallery meanders in between the buildings. Leading visitors from the dainty and grey car park to the alluring museum. From hell to heaven so to speak. The way there being purgatory. The obvious link to Dante’s Inferno is clearly intentional. Once inside illumination will be their part. The magnificent collection fully comes into its own in a post modernist setting that knows no equals. The sheer beauty of Alfa Romeo’s design and engineering, the imposing timeline upon which the brand has developed and the speed that has always played such an enormous part in the history of the brand, everything is reflected in the material chosen to renovate this building. It all seems a bit far fetched, but here in Arese it all makes sense.