Modena retraces its past as a capital city in its urban layout and architecture, and has adapted its overall structure to its historical and economic development, restoring and creating spaces without losing sight of its past.
The end of the Este Dukedom and the city’s annexation to the Kingdom of Italy saw the beginning of its development to unite it with its territory. With the dawn of the new century, the ancient walls and the military citadel were demolished to allow for the expansion of the city. A portion of the Ducal citadel was preserved, however, still visible today inside a meeting place near the centre, which enhances a piece of the city’s history. In the site of the demolished city walls, art nouveau villas and buildings built for the new bourgeoisie can be admired along the streets of the park.
The architecture of the Fascist era can be seen in Piazza XX Settembre or in Piazza Matteotti (formerly Piazza Impero) as well as in other squares and open areas around the city centre with buildings and spaces in a new rationalist style, like the Fondazione Marco Biagi building (formerly the XXVI Settembre building), some Offices of the Province (former Mother and Child Home), the Arpa Offices (ex anti-tuberculosis dispensary), or even the Tassoni High School for scientific studies, the Albergo Reale Hotel, the Monumental Temple of Saint Joseph and Palamolza (ex Exhibition Building).
With the end of the Second World War, Modena engaged in post-war reconstruction. Residential neighbourhoods and services were created to support the upturn in production, while for the agrifood sector the livestock market was built north of the city. New infrastructures and services included the ring road, the bus station and the race track, where Ferrari park is today.
Visible from this period is the Corni Institute, the Fermi Institute, the Policlinico (hospital) and the Casa albergo Cialdini.
Of interest is the presence of large condominiums that replaced pre-existing houses in the immediate suburbs and buildings in the city centre, including the Residential Tower in Viale Caduti in Guerra, the homes, shops and offices Building in Viale Trento Trieste and the Casa Remaggi in Viale Medaglie D'Oro.
Along Via Emilia, in the Bologna direction, are the factories erected for industrial needs, like the Officine Stanguellini auto and the Stabilimento Della Casa.
At that time, the old city centre became the fulcrum of the tertiary and services sector, with the erection of the premises of the Cassa di Risparmio bank, the Post Office, the Principe cinema, the House of the young Cabassi and the Chamber of Commerce.
The second half of the 1960s heralded the safeguarding of the old city centre and the protection of monumental buildings, the conservation of the residential fabric and the transfer of the tertiary sector to new services districts. Of interest is the Direzionale '70 in Via Giardini, Palazzo Europa along Via Emilia, Palazzo G.I.L. in Via Medaglie D'Oro and the R-Nord condominium in Via Canaletto.
A phase of development of the city began in the first half of the 1970s following new flows of immigrants. The expansion took the form of shopping centres and low density residential buildings, while redevelopment was aimed at transferring residents or services to derelict industrial areas. Dating back to this time is the Torrenova district and the redevelopment plan for the railway area (the former Steelworks, former Livestock Market, and former Foundry designs). Of note is Palazzina Pucci, where the former livestock market stood, which was restored to become a building for services and a library. From this period visitors can also admire the Via Campi-Araldi-Vignolese university campus and the new San Cataldo cemetery by A. Rossi.
The objective of restoring some buildings in the old city centre for new uses led to the restoration of the Forum Boarium, an ancient place for buying and selling livestock, today a university site and exhibition space for shows and events.
Opposite the Forum Boarium, in the former Este Piazza d'armi, which was also a site for markets and entertainment, visitors can now admire Novi Ark, an open air archaeological park with underground car park (Novi Park), whose construction revealed a Roman road which has since been moved to the surface.
Still in the old city centre, old buildings have been restored to enhance their architecture and attract visitors. The ground floor of the old Palazzo Comunale, in the site of the Loggia del Mercato, is today home to Caffè Concerto (literary café), an entertainment centre right in front of the apses of the Cathedral.
Walking through the old city centre, visitors can admire the Manifattura Tabacchi, one of the most significant architectural structures in the history of Modenese labour and economy, a testament to the city’s tobacco processing activity since the 17th century. Its recent redevelopment has seen the entire functional complex restored consentendo la visione di insieme and a walkway connecting the city centre with the street that leads to the train station.
Near the station and the old centre is the MEF Museo Enzo Ferrari, a modern building in the shape of a yellow aluminium bonnet which is home to the cars that made history for Ferrari and its founder, with videos and multimedia, as well as temporary exhibitions.
Outside the centre, for those interested in religious architecture, is the Gesù Redentore parish centre which includes the largest Church in the diocese of Modena, combined with large community areas, within a setting of great beauty, simplicity and mysticism.