Piazza Grande - Modena - MO
The conversion project for new use of the rooms on the ground floor of Palazzo Comunale dates back to 1933, when Modena City Council and the podestà (chief magistrate) Guido Sandonnino decided to meet the request made by the Corporate Economy Provincial Board for an indoor trade exchange.
Engineer Remigio Casolari came up with the first plans, but was then drafted and Gaetano Malaguti took over, leading the project to completion in 1939.
The existing nineteenth-century shops were transferred and removed and the many internal partitions were knocked down to create spaces better suited to the new requirements.
The part adjacent to the portico has three rows of bays, with vaulted brick ceilings, followed by a separate room, having a perforated round cement skylight. These rooms were then linked to the old city centre thanks to a series of passageways running through them from the portico to Via Scudari and Via Castellaro.
As news articles from that time show, this project was expected to introduce new languages with its modern materials such as steel, iron and glass. Instead, the interiors were similar in appearance to ancient architecture due to their marble cladding, emphasised by their details featuring Fascist symbols by Benito Boccolari and a series of busts and bas-reliefs by Dante Zamboni, some still visible today, depicting scenes in praise of the values of rural life.
Reconverted at the end of the sixties into the headquarters of the TIMO (Telefoni Italia Medio Orientale – Italian Middle East Telephone Company) and then used as an exhibition hall, today the former trade exchange houses an eating and music venue, an example of the business and leisure vocation for the city’s historic buildings recommended in the plans drawn up by architect Pier Luigi Cervellati for the old city centre in 1986.
These plans also included restoration and redevelopment of the ground floor rooms on the northern side of the portico to make a new entrance for Palazzo Comunale, today housing the tourist office.
A suspended walkway leads across the room, where all the signs of transformation through the ages can be seen, from the original foundations of the so-called “Torre Mozza”, the original city tower that dated back to the initial building of the palazzo at the end of the tenth century.