Rovati Museum: between art, culture and nature by

2024 Other / Italy / Built in 2022 /

Corso Venezia in Milan, the urban manifesto of Milanese Neoclassicism with its palaces, public gardens hides at No. 52 a small green jewel, an integral part of the recovery and underground extension of the historic Bocconi-Rizzoli-Carraro building, now the Art Museum of Fondazione Luigi Rovati. An eco-sustainable, intimate and elegant pocket garden, a happy combination of art, architecture and nature.

The project stems from the Luigi Rovati Foundation’s desire to create a center for experimentation and research also intended to house various functions and an important collection of Etruscan artifacts. With this spirit, the garden project also returns to the city a private space for public use where one can pause, chat, meditate and be inspired by the beauty of the ancient world of Etruscan art and the contemporary artistic and cosmopolitan Milanese. The presence in the lawn of three light embossed correspond to the domes of the hypogean world, three mounds that, besides giving movement, anticipate the underground mystery of the Etruscan world as in Cerveteri. In restoring the garden, it was decided to preserve the existing, historic and healthy tree species, in full harmony with the identity references of Piermarini and Pollack. The design proposal made use of several preparatory sketches to study the urban landscape and botanical context, highlighting the relationship between the greenery and the urbanity of the city, the definition of the boundaries, the axiality with the entrance and the focus points on which to drop the gaze, the asymmetrical compositional layout in which the curved line triumphs over the straight line, with embankments and small earthworks to give depth to the garden.


It is a simple yet refined pocket garden, usable even during the cold season when the light invades the tree branches and colors the lawn thanks to the small greenhouse: a rest, reading, or even afternoon tea-sipping room, like London squares or Paley Park in New York. The austere charm of the palace is mitigated by a mild nature that, with the different colors and shades of green of shrubs and herbaceous plants, prefers a beautiful red color during the autumn-winter seasons, while white for spring-summer. The tree plan consists of two specimens of Tilia platyphyllos replacing the two existing yews Taxus baccata felled because they were leaning, two Celtis australis existing, four Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck’ with an upright form that, in posture, height, and size, can better mask the view of the neighboring building. Two Magnolia campbellii were added to the existing magnolia grove. The shrub plan differs in acid-loving shrubs with various shapes, posture, and color, while for the herbaceous plan, species more suitable for climate change and the presence of acid-loving and shaded areas were chosen such as Convallaria japonica, Helleborus niger, Helleborus guttatus, Vinca minor ‘Alba’. The plaster of the perimeter walls was restored with whitewash lime paste, whose RAL color is the emblematic “Milan yellow”. The central part of the garden is a rustic lawn of Festuca arundinacea, whose seed is the most used for a green and compact grass carpet, with reduced maintenance, resistant to drought and diseases.

The three green mounds or domes are aligned both with the underlying domes of the museum and in size in harmony with the lawn space. The garden is passable thanks to a promenade that starts from the entrance at 0.00 level and reaches +0.50 cm, following a slight uphill and downhill path in a loop, along the boundary wall behind the beech trees and entering the magnolia grove until reaching the right side of the café’s outdoor seating area. A false optical effect of greater perspective depth of the garden has been maintained, also laterally connecting the promenade throughout the route. The area immediately presented itself as a complex construction site already in the design phase of the final plan. With the landscaping company and the Landscape Director, some technologic logistical phases were developed to allow for the best execution of some particularly complex operations:
– replace two unstable yews;
– plant four 15 m tall beech trees, for which a crane was used to “fly” the trees above the building;
– manage the site preparation to position materials and structures without compromising the stability and health of the species present.
The garden now realized is a testimony of an experience of excellence both for its historical and cultural value and for its technical aspects.


The architectural project, designed by MCA – Mario Cucinella Architects, develops an unconventional proposal inspired by the evocative Etruscan tombs of Cerveteri, aiming to evoke the vibrant relationship with the afterlife of this ancient civilization, in an underground architecture that extends even below the palace garden, with three large domes generating a mystical and suspended atmosphere. Through a staircase carved into the Florentine strong stone, a path comes to life leading to the underground space composed of three circular halls and an elliptical hall, a dimly lit space enveloped by 30,000 individually designed stone blocks that enclose the space with a formal and sinuous continuity, thus giving this portion of the museum a strong sense of unity and fluidity.

Architecture offices involved in the design: MCA – Mario Cucinella Architects
Location: Corso Venezia, 52, Milan, Italy
Design year: 2022
Year Completed: 2022


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