MUDEC – Museum of Cultures, Milan
The MUDEC – Museo delle Culture (Museum of Cultures) is an ethnographic museum in Milan. Designed by British architect David Chipperfield, the museum was inaugurated on March 25, 2015.
History and mission
The origins of the MUDEC trace back to the 1990s when the Milan City Council decided to regenerate a disused mechanical factory (once owned by the Ansaldo industrial group) located in the Tortona district to convert it into a new cultural venue focused on the different cultures of the world.
The MUDEC museum’s mission is to present and promote the various cultures of our planet through both scientific research and a diverse cultural offer comprising an ethnographic permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions, special events, and workshops for young people and schools.
The design of the MUDEC museum was developed by David Chipperfield, after winning an international design competition organized by the Milan City Council in 2000.
Yet, Chipperfield’s design was substantially modified over time, to such an extent that the British architect disowned the project, for some time.
The 17,000-square-meter (183,000-square-foot) museum lies in the middle of a large courtyard, located just behind the facades of the former industrial buildings on via Tortona.
The museum’s complex consists of a group of box-shaped buildings, clad in zinc-titanium, whose appearance somewhat resembles that of the former manufacturing plants and which accommodates exhibition galleries and various facilities for the public.
The ground level contains the reception, a cloakroom, a cafe, a store, and a kindergarten, all arranged around a large entrance hall.
From the ground floor, through a large staircase, the visitors ascend to the “core” of the museum: a large covered plaza.
The plaza, which in the original competition design also incorporated the entrance atrium, is somewhat surprising. Embedded into the heart of the complex, it is indeed an airy, organic-shaped, metaphysical space that creates a dynamic contrast with the strictly “parallelepipedal” geometry of the rest of the museum’s building.
From the plaza, the public enters the museum’s main permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, and theater-auditorium, located on the same level.
Program of events
Divided into seven sections, the MUDEC’s permanent exhibition presents a selection of ethnographic artifacts and paleontological objects from the 7,000-piece collection of the museum.
Yet, the MUDEC is possibly most known for its program of events and special exhibitions, usually focused on both ethnography and art, which, since the museum’s opening, featured renowned modern and contemporary artists including Paul Gauguin, Joan Miró, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wassily Kandinsky, and Frida Kahlo.
Along with temporary exhibitions, the museum also hosts special events, educational classes, music concerts, and live performances.
Fully accessible to physically-impaired people, the museum’s building includes exhibition spaces and an auditorium on the first floor and a library, a shop, a restaurant cafe, and a workshop for children on the ground floor.
The MUDEC is located in the Tortona district in southwestern Milan and can be reached in a few minutes from the Porta Genova metro station (M2 line).
MUDEC, “Paul Gauguin. Tales from Paradise”, installation view; photo © Inexhibit
“Africa. The Land of the Spirits”, installation view; photo © Inexhibit
MUDEC, entrance from via Tortona; photo © Inexhibit
A group of Capoeira dancers performing in the entrance hall on the MUDEC ground level; photo © Inexhibit
The restaurant cafe on the ground floor; photo © Inexhibit
The museum’s kindergarten – children’s workshop; photo © Inexhibit
The Michelin 3-star restaurant of Enrico Bartolini on the upper floor of MUDEC; photo courtesy Ristorante Enrico Bartolini.
The staircase which leads from the entrance lobby to the covered plaza on the first floor; photo © Inexhibit
Views of the “covered Plaza”; photos © Inexhibit
The plaza is encircled by an array of display cases with iconic objects from the museum’s permanent collection; photos © Inexhibit
Cover image: MUDEC, the translucent glass-clad covered plaza; photo © Inexhibit
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