Copper Harmonises Uffizi Gallery’s New Staircase with the Renaissance Style of the World’s First Public Art Gallery
1.5 million people to walk up the new copper staircase per year
A prestigious restoration and extension project at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence exploited the versatility of copper to ensure harmony with the world-renowned gallery’s Renaissance style. The Uffizi Gallery, designed by Giorgio Vasari, and originally created by the famous Medici family from their extensive private collections, is considered the world’s first public museum, with over 1.5 million visitors per year. For art lovers around the world, the Uffizi is famous for a collection that includes Botticelli's "Primavera" and "Birth of Venus," as well as Titian's "Venus of Urbino".
The restoration project, inaugurated in December 2011, benefits from 45 tons of a copper and zinc alloy (brass), known for its golden colour. The brass supplied in format of sheets has been used and burnished to create the new western staircase leading to the eight rooms on the second floor devoted to the Foreign Painters, a total area of 480sqm.
The Uffizi is one of the most important museums in the world for Italian and, in particular, Renaissance art. All of the famous names from Italy's rich artistic heritage, including Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, and Raphael, are represented at the Uffizi. In order to match the Renaissance aesthetics, the architect Adolfo Natalini chose copper for the structural element of the staircase that has a high visual impact among the newly-completed sections of the restoration project. Copper is versatile and can be formed in various ways to provide any desired effect, adding value and harmony to a wide variety of prestigious architectural installations.
The main characteristic of the staircase is its dark brown colour and an “antique” aesthetic effect, obtained thanks to a special burnish, which was also used in the Renaissance era, that was manually applied to the surface of the metal by expert artisans on-site. It is this peculiar artisanal process of burnishing that gives the structure of the staircase its unique and prized characteristics that perfectly match a majestic setting such as the Uffizi Gallery. About 11,000 working hours were necessary to install and burnish the 2,700 brass sheets.
The new staircase is situated in the Court of Vecchia Posta and is an architectural component described by the architect himself as having a “shape like a tower in stone, with large openings from which the volume of the flights of stairs in burnished brass emerges.” It also has a multipurpose function and it represents an important escape route that is essential considering the extension of the museum and the anticipated increase in visitors. Finally, it will allow access to the catering areas planned in the adjacent areas on the ground floor.
Project name: Architectural and structural restoration work, functional adaptation and realization of mechanical, electrical and special systems of the Uffizi monumental, Florence, Italy
Owner: State property
Client: Ministry of Cultural Activities and Heritage - Superintendence for the Architectural, the Landscape, the Historical, Artistic and ethno-anthropological patrimony for the Provinces of
Florence (excluding the competences on Historical, Artistic and ethno-anthropological patrimony within the city of Florence), Pistoia and Prato.
Architect: Adolfo Natalini per S.IN.TER. Srl, Italy
Photo credits: property of ItalG, images courtesy of KME Group