National Automobile Museum – Turin
The Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile (also known as MAUTO) automobile museum in Turin is one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to the automotive industry and car making.
History and building
Turin has a long history and tradition of motor vehicle design and manufacturing; Fiat, Lancia, Iveco, Pininfarina, Bertone, Giugiaro, Ghia, Cisitalia were all founded here; it was, therefore, natural for the most important automobile museum in Italy to be located in this city.
Opened in 1960 and dedicated to Giovanni Agnelli, founder of FIAT, the museum’s building and permanent exhibition were completely renovated in 2011. The MAUTO is today one of Turin’s most popular tourist attractions both for “petrolheads” and the general public.
The renovation project – aimed to make the National Automobile Museum more attractive to the general public, begun in 2004 with an architectural competition. One of the key points of the winning design by architect Cino Zucchi was to create a multi-functional ground floor on which various public services – a reception, a bookshop, and a cafeteria – were arranged around an impressive covered courtyard, called the Piazza, conceived to accommodate temporary exhibitions and special events.
Special attention has been reserved for the building’s skin. The old facade has been overlaid with new cladding, made with glass panels with different degrees of transparency, so to provide the museum with a uniform and shiny external look, which somewhat evokes that of a 1950s sports car metal body.
On a floor area of 11,000 square meters (118,000 square feet), the National Automobile Museum displays a collection of over 200 iconic cars – produced in Italy, France, UK, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and the United States – dating from 1854 onwards.
The museum also features a congress hall, a documentation center, a car restoration facility, a library, an educational space, a book and gift store, and a cafe.
The National Automobile Museum in Turin, exterior view, and the “Piazza”, a large hall and the main special event space; photos © Inexhibit
Collection and permanent exhibition
The large permanent collection of MAUTO, focused on the history of automobile from its origins to the present day, presents both vehicles produced by Italian car-makers – including Ferrari, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia – and historical pieces by International car manufacturers such as Cadillac, Mercedes Benz, Ford, Jaguar, and Rolls Royce.
The exhibition, designed by Swiss set designer François Confino in collaboration with Turin-based Studio LL.TT is aimed to combine scientific rigor with the capability to captivate and intrigue the public, by using cutting-edge multimedia, interactive, and audio-visual technologies.
The permanent exhibition begins on the second floor of the museum, which the public reaches from the covered piazza by an imposing stairway.
The first exhibition section is entitled The car and the 20th century and, into twenty-one rooms, depicts the history of the automobile from its origins to the present day.
In the galleries, arranged chronologically, the cars are contextualized through multimedia installations, artwork reproductions, large graphic panels, audio and videos that relate each vehicle with its historical and social milieu.
The origins of the car: the 1854 Bordino steam carriage
The pioneering era of automotive history: in the background, the entrance of a reconstructed 1900’s mechanical workshop and garage, in which sounds and mechanics’ voices, along with old cars, create an intriguing experience. Foreground, the reconstruction of the “Jamais Contente”, an electric vehicle built in Belgium in 1899
“Mechanical fervor”: large-scale reproductions of artworks placed behind early 20th century cars reconstruct the spirit of the time and the love for speed and action of the Futurism era
The “Crazy Twenties” section, a Rolls Royce 40-50Hp flanked by portraits of famous “divas” of the 1920s
The cars on view in the museum are always contextualized through images, sounds, objects, and videos related to their times; on the left, a 1922 SPA 23s; on the right, a 1948 Lancia Aprilia and a video on pioneering studies on aerodynamics
A 1953 Fiat Turbina prototype, displayed together with large reproductions of its original technical drawings, symbolizes Italy’s “economic miracle” after World War Two
A 1955 Citroen DS 19 is the icon of the “French Revolution” section
Automobiles that particularly embody the spirit of a period are placed into somewhat “theatrical” sets, together with videos and sounds. On the left, a Jaguar E, an icon of the “happy Sixties”, and a cutaway of a “Flower-power” Volkswagen Transporter onto which videos of music concerts of the time are projected.
At the end of the first gallery, the visitors walk down to the first floor, which accommodates a second exhibition section, entitled Man and the Car, focused on the relationship between people and automobiles.
Into eight exhibition rooms, encompassing a total area of 3,800 square meters (41,000 square feet), this section presents various themes – from the special role the automotive industry has for the city of Turin, to the car production and manufacturing process, from the bizarre obsessions of car maniacs to races. Each thematic gallery has been designed to create different types of experience; some sections are aimed to the single visitor, such as the one dedicated to the history of car advertising, while others invite large groups of people to gather around impressive installations, such as Formula, the section dedicated to car racing, particularly to Formula One’s.
The Man and the Car gallery also anticipates the theme of car design and styling, which is further developed into a specific section located on the ground floor; this is the last gallery before the visitors go back to the “Piazza” into which the exhibition path began.
Onto a glass floor, a large map reporting the impressive galaxy of historical Turin’s car-related manufacturers and companies
“Mechanical Symphony” is a large installation consisting of car engines and spinning wheels
Three visitors watching footages from the museum’s comprehensive collection of car-advertising videos from all over the world
The reconstruction of a car assembly line whose outcome is a dummy automobile (a FIAT 500) completely made of little scale models of the same model
The Mercedes-Benz W196 race car with which Manual Fangio won the Formula One World Championship in 1954 and 1955
“Formula” is an impressive installation featuring a cavalcade of twenty F1 and super-sport vehicles.
The Ferrari F2003-GA with which Michael Schumacher won the Formula One drivers’ championship in 2003
The “automobilissimo” section, featuring various curious facts related to automobiles, the car in the foreground is a 1911 “Bedelia”, one of the narrowest cars ever manufactured.
Cover image: a yellow Ferrari 458 Italia (foreground) and a 1960s Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 sports racing prototype (background) on view in the National Automobile Museum, Turin
All photos © Inexhibit
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