art toys museum
by Lucia Godi e Claudio Cavalli
Like all the great restoration works, the complex of S. Lucia di Cesena has been restored thanks to a collective work which involved architects, engineers, a construction company, artisans, the owners of the building, institutions like the Municipality of Cesena and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of the city of Ravenna. The work of these people, as well as the profitable and positive though sometimes heated dialogue between them, were decisive for the outcome of the project. It is thanks to them if we can now admire, once again, the Church of S. Lucia, its architectonic beauty, its original internal features, its rare neoclassic balance, its enchanting setting, with breathtaking views of the hills, the Adriatic sea out on the horizon and the Padana plain, stretching as far as the eye can see.
The restoration works involved the old rectory and the building which once hosted the stables and the farm store. The whole complex was recovered and its architectural structure, its forms and materials were restored.
Our main thought, maybe not so much in fashion nowadays, was very similar to that of architects and artisans during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance time who built cathedrals focusing on their beauty and solidity so that they could defy time. Certainly, the dimensions of S. Lucia are smaller, it is a small beauty, “only” 200 years old, perched on a hill, but we have refurbished it thinking also of our generations to come.
After all, children and teens have been the focus of our personal and professional commitment for almost forty years: for them we have written and staged theatre shows, TV programs, cognitive adventures, books and tales, festivals, narrative poetry and ludic paths to discover works of art. The site of St. Lucia has been allocated purposely to attract youngsters to the extraordinary artistic heritage of our country; it is a thematic park where it is possible to discover the beauty of art and the pleasure it can give: from the masterpieces of great artists of the past up to the works and poetry of contemporary artists.
Consideration on the restoration of the complex of S. Lucia
by Emilio Roberto Agostinelli (*)
Architect Director Coordinator at the Superintendence of Architectural and Landscape Heritage of the city of Ravenna
Some places are uncommonly fascinating, they catch your heart, they make you dizzy and make you fall in love with them at first sight to the point of pushing you towards extreme and “crazy” actions, like leaving a well established job in a lively and hard-working city like Milan to dedicate yourself to the restoration of a Place which is antithetical to that very daily life, immersed in the pensive quietness of the hills surrounding Cesena: the complex of S. Lucia.
That complex of buildings in ruins, besieged by nature which was progressively winning back its space over man-made architectures, had surely left an indelible mark in the minds of Lucietta and Claudio Cavalli. The idea: carry on their art activity over there, by introducing, however, an added value given by the positive, dazzling sensation provoked in them by that Place. However, the interventions to be carried out on the buildings, necessary to put the idea into action, needed to comply with essential functional and regulatory requirements.
Would the restoration and re-functionalization of the complex keep that original flow of sensations perceived by Mr. and Mrs. Cavalli, or would it just give back a complex of well interrelated and functional buildings in a site divested of its specificity and homologized with all the many new buildings scattered within the atomization of today’s suburban areas? What was the added value to the historic, documental or artistic value which Mr. and Mrs. Cavalli had perceived with such strength and which had subjugated them?
The approach to the restoration works had to encompass all these considerations. When thinking of the context the mind immediately went to the romantic sensitivity of John Ruskin and to his words: “I always considered that architecture is an essential part of the landscape” (Modern Painters, IV, 1856, Chapter VIII) and again: “In architecture, the superinduced and accidental beauty is most commonly inconsistent with the preservation of original character, and the picturesque is therefore sought in ruin, and supposed to consist in decay. Whereas, even when so sought, it consists in the mere sublimity of the rents, or fractures, or stains, or vegetation, which assimilate the architecture with the work of Nature, and bestow upon it those circumstances of color and form which are universally beloved by the eye of man. So far as this is done, to the extinction of the true characters of the architecture, it is picturesque, […] But so far as it can be rendered consistent with the inherent character, the picturesque or extraneous sublimity of architecture has just this of nobler function in it than that of any other object whatsoever, that it is an exponent of age, of that in which, as has been said the greatest glory of the building consists” (The seven lamps of architecture, 1849, the Sixth Lamp, point XVI).
The concept of patina and time, evoked by the words of Camillo Boito during the last two decades of the 19th Century was strongly felt: “The old objects, from which the patina of time, which is at the same time beauty and firmness, has not been removed, shall not be touched. May God look down; the same ability of time shall correct over the years, within others, the unbridled brio of tone. Hence, we shall pave the way, at least once, for harmonious beauty for our grandchildren.” According to Boito, the intervention should not remove the poetry, the color and the patina of time, “the color of their being old”, the “sweet and severe signs of antiquity”, but be respectful of the “picturesque circumstances and of the ruined state in which they are”. And let’s recall the words of Alois Riegl, for whom the signs of time impressed on the materials, which give to the observer the “feeling of the natural course of events, of the evolving and passing of time”, constitute a psychological effect which could be qualified as a deep feeling, that can be hardly be described, which does not entail any scientific experience and which, therefore, does not pertain to specialists but is universally common to any human being without distinction.This is probably the main value which sedimented in that Place, where the signs and the color of time impressed in the buildings had amplified the already smooth integration of the buildings within nature and the surrounding landscape, smoothing out the anthropic rough and sharp edges of newly constructed buildings, in favor of a “rinaturalization” cycle.
The restoration works which followed these considerations were performed using techniques of extreme conservation: the façade for example was not restored with new plastering on the basis of the existing remains; on the other hand the fragments of plaster (lacerti) were kept and accurately plastered, piece by piece and not as an overall area, using a mimetic approach, so that the brickwork could be restored in order to avoid structural damages over the time, due to water infiltration and to preserve, at the same time, the authenticity of the materials of the building.
Some elements which were essential for the proper functionality of the building, such as window frames, sheet metal works on the upper part of the bell tower or the new plastering on the wall surfaces of secondary elements, hastily patched up during the past decades, were added in such a way as to perceive the contemporary materials when looking closely at details but at the same time get an overall view of a “harmonious whole” in terms of colors and distribution of lights and shadows, well integrated with the surrounding landscape.
In order to achieve such a result, a large number of tests and sampling has been performed, thanks to the love of the owners, the high professionalism of technicians, the expertise and craft mastery of the firm hands of restoration professionals. All this, so that that old Place, one of the cruxes of the plot of meaningful episodes which shape the territory and landscape of Italy, may provide the visitors with clear perceptions of its historic and natural specificity rooted in time, besides the precious didactic contents of Art developed here by Mr. and Mrs. Cavalli.