The MUDEC started life as an operation of archaeological recovery in one of the most lively districts of Milan, the Tortona area.
The project for the Museum of Cultures originated in the 1990s when the Municipality of Milan acquired the former industrial area of Ansaldo to give it over to the cultural activities. The disused factories, which are true monuments of industrial archaeology, have been transformed into workshops, studies and new creative spaces. In this scenario the municipality of Milan is designing a multidisciplinary hub dedicated to the various testimonies and cultures of the world, an exhibition site for the Civic Ethnographic Collections.
The Museum of Cultures, conceived in a socio-economic context that was very different from now, has had to be rethought in the light of a complexity that was perhaps not to be imagined at the end of the 90s.
The intercultural vocation that runs through it today finds its expression in a design that is capable of meeting the call, which over the years has become more and more widespread, from a cultural public in a landscape that is in continuous transformation for museum institutions, their sustainability and their identity between scientific research, historical witness, interpretation of the present day and a vision of the future.
A visitor to the Museum of Cultures can visit great international shows proposed via diverse artistic languages, get to know the ethno-anthropological heritage of the collections of the Municipality of Milan which are made up of more than 7000 works of art, objects of use, textiles and musical instruments from every continent, take part in a schedule of events and initiatives curated by the international communities present locally.
The very architecture of the building mirrors the many spirits that dwell in the MUDEC.
The building features blocks of squared off forms clad in zinc and a crystal structure – lit around the clock – that bursts geometrically upon the area hosting it and appears very different from the adjacent rooms. The MUDEC sets itself apart by its central hall in a free and organic shape which generates an internal courtyard with a characteristic “flower” shape, a covered piazza, a meeting place between cultures and communities.
Within the building various spaces are laid out that offer the visitor and the city a multiplicity of cultural proposals and services, spread over 17,000 sqm.
The ground floor is devoted to welcoming; it has a bistrot, a design store, ticket office, wardrobe, restoration workshop and storerooms set up for visits by small accompanied groups.
The exhibition area of the Museum, located on the first floor, is set around a large covered central piazza and hosts the section of the museum itinerary holding the works from the permanent collection and halls given over to the large temporary shows. The space is rounded out by the auditorium, a theatre that sits three hundred, devoted to performance and visual arts.
On the second floor on the other hand there is the MUDEC Club restaurant, which offers unseen glimpses over the building and the surrounding area and aims to be a container for events linked to the art-world: artistic performances, presentations, and workshops will be held in series over a yearly calendar and will stimulate the artistic spirit of this space. Finally, MUDEC Junior is the space specifically dedicated to children, where it is proposed bringing the younger ones closer to the diverse cultures of the world through activities of play, multimedia stations and manual workshops.
MUDEC displays a governance that is innovative with a management formula of public/private partnership and that brings together the Municipality of Milan and 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 Ore.
The partnership, which has been achieved through a selection by public tender procedure, is an important and pioneering solution that is capable of respecting the identity of the cultural hub and at the same time meeting demands of efficiency and sustainability. Scientific management, preserving, cherishing of the heritage and coordination of activities of the Forum of Cultures are entrusted to the Municipality of Milan; 24 Ore Culture on the other hand deals with bringing about the large temporary shows and managing the services of hospitality and entertainment.
In this way a significant experience has been brought about – the first of its kind in Italy – of cooperation between a for-profit party and a not-for-profit one that, in addition to being founded upon sharing of know-how, generates a virtuous dynamic in cultural management and gives life in Milan to a new cultural hub that alongside the museum and temporary exhibition events offers a multiplicity of occasions for entertainment, from the bistrot to the design store, from the restaurant to the public car park, from the teaching spaces to the auditorium, from the MUDEC Academy to the junior culture space.
THE PERMANENT COLLECTION AND THE STOREROOMS
The civic ethnographic collections, the forming of which can be dated back to the 19th century, are the result of more than two hundred years of donations from missionaries, explorers, researchers and collectors of Milan.
The most ancient are the legacies to various Milan public bodies such as the Museo Patrio Archeologico in Brera and the Museo Artistico Municipale and the Museo di Storia Naturale, the most recent are those that have arrived with the achieving of the project for the Museum of Cultures. The heritage of the Civic Collections of Asia, Africa, America and Oceania as well as the heart of the Museum of Cultures, is made up of 7.000 items that cover an arc of time from 1200 BC to the 1900s.