Inside the Museo Enzo Ferrari

The Museo Enzo Ferrari is a worthy tribute to the man himself

At Enzo Ferrari's birthplace stands a museum to him, with architecture that reflects the audacity of the man himself.

Prima facie it might be preposterously literal, as well as visually insensitive, to insert among the city's terracotta roof-tiles a giant yellow dome, shaped and louvred to recall the bonnet of one of Enzo's racing machines.


But it isn't that simple. First, this this new yellow structure is extraordinarily beautiful in its own right. Besides it hardly disrupts any historically valuable cityscape (it's wedged alongside railway lines). It also works perfectly as an automotive exhibition space.


It's a low-energy building, sensitive to the environment. Most of all, it's actually sensitive to its location: it's oriented to pay heed to the restored buildings next to it, the house where Enzo was born in 1898 and the adjacent workshops of his father's metalworking company.


The Museo Enzo Ferrari was designed by Jan Kaplicky. He was founding partner in the Future Systems architectural practice whose output was sparse but astonishingly original. Kaplicky never saw the Museo built, but his vision was faithfully carried through after his untimely death in 2009, to be finished three years later.

The Museo Enzo Ferrari's distinctive sloping roof echo the sleek lines of a Maranello model

The main roof is double-curved aluminium, which drove its builders to adopt techniques from boatbuilding. Its yellow is the background of the Ferrari shield, itself the civic colour of Modena.


Beneath the skylight louvres, a white stretched membrane diffuses the light. This, and the uncluttered white floor of the main exhibition space, suffuses a shape-enhancing glow over the displayed cars. They pop out at your from the whiteness, suspended free of distraction in your vision.


One end of the structure is glazed and curved, embracing the historic brick buildings. The old workshop has been re-modelled internally by Kaplicky's collaborator Andrea Morgante to house a Ferrari engine museum and an exhibition of highlights from Enzo's life and his thinking.


Walking into the workshops, almost the first thing you see is a large inscription on the wall, a quotation from Enzo: “I am the one who dreamed of being Ferrari.” This is the nub of it all really. He wasn't just a mechanic and racer who stumbled into greatness.

The Museo, with Enzo Ferrari's house in the foreground  Photo: Getty Images

Right at the start of his enterprise he conjured up a dream, a myth, a brand – before the word or concept really existed – and nurtured it ruthlessly. He was always looking forward not back. Which all makes the prominence and progressiveness of the architecture so fitting.


The main museum floor is sunk below ground level, taking advantage of the passive thermal stability of the earth to reduce heating and air-conditioning energy. The glass wall has opening flaps for ventilation. Much of the Museo's remaining energy needs are met by geothermal and photovoltaic systems.

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