After 13 months of work, from March 2014 to April 2015, thanks to an efficient construction site working round the clock, 14 thousand square meters were restored, giving the people of Milan and the international public a brand-new Galleria, 150 years after the laying of the first stone.
The work unveiled the original two-tone color scheme of the façades, and brought the spotlight back on its designer, the architect Giuseppe Mengoni, as well as providing data and scientific information on the future preservation of the monument.
A site for knowledge
The restoration work, curated by the architect Roberto Baciocchi for the Prada Group and carried out by the firm Gasparoli s.r.l., involved an average of 12 restorers and a total investment of about 35,000 hours of work.
The flying scaffolding
The knowledge of past interventions, the will to preserve unencumbered access to shops, the need to guarantee people’s safety and optimize time-scales made it necessary to devise a “creative” solution. The intent was ambitious: carrying out the restoration without putting up scaffolding. The standard way of doing it, moving with platforms that could reach different heights, immediately proved unfeasible. This initial obstacle called for a more ambitious solution, the will strengthened inspired by the knowledge that the Galleria could not be “wrapped up” for an entire year. The idea came from the creative flair of Impresa Percassi that transformed what was just a dream into a “machine”: “we do not have to remove curtains, clog up shop entrances or set up scaffolding for a long time: we’ll just have to restore the Galleria in flight”.
The “flying scaffolding”, or self-propelled portal, is the physical manifestation of the above approach and objectives. Scaffolding moved over passers-by’s heads and shop windows and rested on the ground on eight space-saving elements that were removed at the end of each phase of the work. During the night, the portal was pulled back, revealing the newly-cleaned façades. A sort of “shuttle” that hosted restorers, protected passers-by and safeguarded retailers.
The promotional project
The communication project that complemented the restoration work promoted the value of the Italian culture and artistic heritage, with the goal of returning to Milan one of its most iconic monuments.
Curiosity, passion, and enthusiasm for the discovery of small and big stories aroused the desire to tell and hear new ones. Thus, not only the stones and plaster were probed, but also the mentality, social life and relationships between people in 150 years of life in the Galleria.
On the website www.ingalleria.com history meets the present, recovering the past and building new paths for the future. The rich bourgeois who demolished whole blocks to build the Galleria once again become our contemporaries, as do the elegant ladies who would make their most important purchases here, or the immigrants from Southern Italy who would go to the Galleria to call home from the public telephones.
Spectacular images describe the restoration and unveil the aesthetic details of the monument’s ornaments.
The short stories edited by the Milanese writer Giovanna Ferrante narrate historical episodes staged in the most exclusive area of Milan and a gallery of video-interviews collects the comments of those who believed in the project with conviction.
The guided tours
Prada, Versace and Feltrinelli, in collaboration with the Municipality of Milan Department of Culture offered the students of zone schools of Milan a chance to enjoy a guided tour of the Galleria restoration site.
224 students from 9 different schools took part in the initiative, which contributed to the planning of school activities by providing an opportunity to introduce new generations to the history of one of the most symbolic monuments of the city of Milan.
The youngest students enlivened the events with their imagination, giving a free interpretation of the 4 continents decorating the mosaics of the Galleria.
These days offered an opportunity to promote culture and to transmit the importance of protecting and promoting the works of our territory, as they are part of our history and of the Italian historical and cultural heritage
The closing event
The project ended with the installation of an octagonal structure in the middle of the Galleria, only accessible from the two open sides of the main pathway, externally covered with mirrors amplifying and increasing the iconographic richness of the newly restored facades and fitted out with internal video-walls projecting unusual views and recalling surprising uses of the monument.
The project was completed with 4 benches – paying homage to the time-honored tradition of just sitting and chatting with one’s acquaintances, once a Galleria staple – each of which was equipped with binoculars for close-up viewing of the restored architectural details, transforming the Galleria into an urban landscape that was really worth exploring.