A landmark 18th century hospital complex in Italy is turned into a cultural hub by CRA and Italo Rota – one feature is an origami-style kinetic roof

Designed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and architectural designer Italo Rota

From the architects:

A venerable former hospital complex in Modena, Italy, is to be transformed  into one of the country’s major cultural and innovation hubs. 

The master plan for the reinvented complex – AGO Modena Fabbriche Culturali – features a kinetic roof, part of a broader, progressive vision for the restoration of historical buildings.

The origami-like movable roof was conceived of by CRA and artist-engineer Chuck Hoberman. 

The master plan for the new hub proposes a novel approach to the restoration of cultural heritage that grants it the flexibility to adapt to changing future configurations.

Measuring 20,000m², the project by CRA and Italo Rota pursues an experimental design approach, matching the practices of architectural conservation with the transformative qualities of kinetic architecture, which is normally employed in temporary installations.

This is best characterised by one of AGO’s main courtyards, where a kinetic roof creates a multitude of spatial experiences. 

Lightweight and foldable, it opens and closes easily like origami, transforming this long-neglected courtyard into a social space adaptable to various climatic conditions and functions. 

Photovoltaic panels will also be installed on the new structure to harvest solar energy to help power the complex. 

The roof is a co-creation between CRA and Hoberman, one of the world’s leading experts in dynamic structure design and a former collaborator with NASA, the American space agency. 

“Cultural places should be thought of as dynamic, capable of incorporating change over time,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. 

“The changing nature of the built environment enables, in turn, a participatory approach to activate cultural production. 

AGO’s architecture sets up flexible, reconfigurable spaces where past and future complement each other.”

Historical and contemporary elements are also present in other parts of the complex. 

Through the impressive Tenaglie corridors – whose name derives from their distinctive pincer-like vaults – visitors arrive at the chimney courtyard. 

Here, another kinetic installation leads people to a new rooftop terrace, now transformed into a garden where one can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Modena’s old house roofs and church domes.

“When we took a close look at AGO’s past, we discovered a panoply of histories, characters, and functions.” architect Italo Rota says. 

“Because the complex had so many pasts, we thought our design should allow it to embody a multiplicity of futures – AGO Modena is the perfect embodiment of this approach as it brings together museums, training and co-working space under the same roof.”

The AGO site is situated at the entrance to Modena’s medieval city centre, whose monuments are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. 

The immense complex was built in the mid-18C, with a sense of simplicity that hints at its function as the local Sant’Agostino Hospital. 

A previous, unrealised restoration was developed by architect Gae Aulenti in 2012.

When completed, AGO Modena will become a location that unites various institutions in visual arts, digital culture and educational experimentation. 

Established by the City of Modena, Fondazione di Modena and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, AGO will host numerous entities across many disciplines, including the Modena Visual Arts Foundation, the Museo della Figurina dedicated to collectible cards, and the Interdepartmental Research Centre on Digital Humanities.

“In many cases, the restoration of an ancient building leads to a static result that does not interact much with what will be contained inside," Rota says. 

"In the project for the former Sant’Agostino Hospital, we strive to restore the ancient and monumental space and free it from any obstruction – moreover, the project seeks an openness to be in dialogue with future installations,” says architect Francesco Doglioni, an expert in the field of restoration and a project’s team member. 

“What we aimed for while enhancing the building’s ancient components is dynamic reconfigurability: reversible and adaptive to continuous transformation," he says.

"The restoration is left deliberately unfinished in some places – this leaves the building room to undergo further evolutions, provoking a constant tension between the old and the new.”

Credit list

AGO Modena Fabbriche Culturali
Architectural designer
Italo Rota
Kinetic roof
Hoberman Associates
Structural, mechanical and electrical engineering and safety
Light Follows Behaviour
Renovating architect
Studio Associato Architetti
Kinetic roof structure
Studio Laura Gatti
Fire prevention
GAE Engineering
Cost consultant
Marco Figazzolo

Designed by: Designed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and architectural designer Italo Rota

Story by: Trendsideas

22 Jan, 2023

Home kitchen bathroom commercial design

Latest Post

21 Apr, 2024

21 Apr, 2024

21 Apr, 2024

We know the Specialists

Related Book

Similar Stories