Designed by architects Mario Bellini (Italy) and Rudy Ricciotti (France) and built in several stages, the structure is a masterpiece of parametric design and avant-garde technologies that artfully complements the historic surroundings.
The ornate Visconti courtyard lacked a continuous cornice that would have easily accommodated a glass roof. In response to this challenge, the architects proposed a glass and metal canopy set back from the historic facades at a distance of 2.5 to 4 meters (8-13 feet).The supporting structure is made of a free-form double lattice system of about 8,800 round steel tubes, all having the same diameter but a varying wall thickness according to the weight they bear. On this intricate net lie the three layers of the roof: a system of glass panels between two metallic mesh sheets, which give it a soft golden color and protect the light-sensitive works on exhibit.
Thicker where it rests on the load-bearing columns, the canopy gets thinner toward the edges, reinforcing the wavy shape. Its total weight of 135 metric tons sits on eight gracefully inclined columns that do not exceed 12 inches in diameter.
The undulating roof shelters an exhibition space of 2,800 square meters (about 30,000 square feet) distributed on two levels, one above and one below ground. In the upper floor galleries, transparent glass partitions allow visitors to see the courtyard’s facades, as a background for the museum’s treasure trove of Islamic art.
The contrast between old and new invites reflection on cultural differences and allows visitors to plunge into a different experience, as if on a magic carpet journey.