Porticoes of Bologna: design, restoration, protection
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Porticoes of Bologna: design, restoration, protection

The fourth Three Institutions, One Heritage program is now under way, with over 50 students working on five restoration sites and heritage education projects

Porticoes of Bologna: design, restoration, protection
By Redazione The Plan -

It would be hard to imagine Bologna without its porticoes. They define the identity of the city, while signposting its architectural and artistic evolution. They’re also a significant measure of the cooperative nature of the local community. The Portico Project was created to enrich the inestimable heritage of the porticoes, which have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2021, and to create a network of people and institutions for their protection. Comprising five restoration sites and conservation schemes, the project is part of the fourth Three Institutions, One Heritage, a program that involves the collaboration of the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna, the Emilia-Romagna Region, and the Municipality of Bologna. The project will see over 50 students from the Alma Mater Studiorum Academy involved for the next two years in the restoration of sites, the restoration of paper and photographic materials, and the removal of graffiti. The students will also be involved in heritage education and communication schemes, both of which are fundamental in developing community awareness of the need to care for a site that’s open to all. As pointed out in the project guidelines, the importance of the porticoes isn’t just linked to their architectural significance but can also be seen in the social and cultural ecosystem that has grown up around them. While the students will work on the restoration of the wooden portico of Palazzo Grassi in Via Marsala, they’ll also be involved in education from lower secondary school level.


The five restoration sites

Portico di San Luca

Each of the restoration sites, which will open in the next few days, will be associated with a course of study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, offering students the chance to step outside their classrooms and put their skills to the test in the field.

The wooden portico of Palazzo Grassi will involve students who study the restoration of furniture and wooden structures. Their task will be to draw up an executive project, starting with surveys of a portion of the portico characterized by the presence of wood, other lithoid materials, and, in particular, selenite. “We hope that this project will translate into concrete action,” said Rita Finzi, president of the Academy of Fine Arts. Work in Viale Aldo Moro has already received funding to the tune of 20 thousand euros for the coordination and support of the Portico Project.

“One of the jobs of the regional government is to help bolster the cultural fabric of our region. The Three Institutions, One Heritage program does just that, demonstrating over recent years the effectiveness of coordinated action that involves different groups for enhancing our heritage, some examples of which are not well known,” added the Regional Councilor for Culture, Mauro Felicori. “The idea of these school-sites has allowed hundreds of students to get involved and gain experience in the field, which will keep them in good stead for their future roles in cultural heritage.”

Students studying the restoration of documents, photographs, and books will be working on materials from the Municipality of Bologna archives. One particularly important example is the conservation of the famous drawings of Bologna by Pio Panfili (1723–1812) conserved in Bologna’s Archiginnasio library. Once studied and restored, these archival materials will be exhibited, which will place a spotlight on both the work of the students and these largely unpublished documents.

After a preparatory period, in May 2023 the graffiti removal site should be operational, involving a section of the portico with a tabernacle and a fresco of the Madonna with Child in Via delle Belle Arti. The graffiti, which has damaged the fresco, and the precarious state of conservation of its stucco frame will make the restoration particularly interesting in terms of heritage education, with school pupils getting involved in the work. This site will involve students who study the restoration of frescoes, and plasterwork and stucco restoration.

Volume soggetto a restauro

The last two parts of the project concern heritage education (multimedia courses for cultural heritage and art) and the promotion and enhancement of the porticoes (graphic design, cinema, and audiovisual courses). Work on the first of these will lead to the creation of an eBook for junior high students, who’ll also be offered study units involving visits to the sites and classroom work. The second will involve the creation of the Portico Project logo.

Although the official duration of the Portico Project is two years, it’s expected to be extended, just as happened with the previous three editions. Three Institutions, One Heritage is an operational program, already tested in past incarnations, that aims to develop and support a working model for a culture of participation in the heritage sector by local institutions from different fields and in collaboration with the local heritage authority.


Previous projects


Iron, Straw, and Fire. From Donation to Exhibition: the Mizzau-Contento Collection was the title of the first edition of the project, which took place over the two-year period 2016–17. Over thirty students from restoration and graphic design courses worked together with their teachers and with the support of African anthropologist Cesare Poppi to study and restore an entire collection of some 80 artefacts from West Africa of material and symbolic importance. Previously unseen by the  public, the pieces were private donations to Bologna’s Cabral library.

Forges. Premier Restorations (2018–19) was the name of the second project, which focused on a wealth of cinematographic materials. The core of the materials comprised some forty items, including unpublished photographs, positives, and negatives from the early 20th century from the Albert Samama Chikly Fund, and five posters, including some large ones, from the Emmer Fund of Bologna’s cinema archives.

Third Movement (2020–21) aimed to revive, conserve, and enhance various music-related materials from Bologna’s Gian Battista Martini Conservatory, the project involved an important heritage for both its variety and value. The partnership in this case was extended to the Bologna Museums Institute, Bologna Cemetery Services for the Certosa monument, and to the relevant government authorities. The work of over 50 students from courses in the restoration of documents, stucco and plasterwork, frescoes, paintings, design and graphics, and film was coordinated by teachers from the academy.

“It’s about taking that extra step that schools aren’t always able to provide,” concluded Rita Finzi. “With all this collaboration, every two years, we’re able to offer our students hands-on experience that stimulates sensitivity, knowledge, and respect for public heritage.”

>>> Read an interview with Bologna street artist Alessandro Dado Ferri.


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