The Enzo Ferrari Birthplace Museum opened in March in Modena, Italy.
Built next to the home where the founder of Ferrari was born, the museum was the last work of the star architect Jan Kaplicky.
It has been a long time coming; the building was designed in 2003. After Mr. Kaplicky’s sudden death in January 2009, the structure was completed by his former colleague in the firm Future Systems, Andrea Morgante. Mr. Morgante, who kept a blog to record the progress of construction, spoke to Wheels on Thursday.
“It was a burden to be without him,” Mr. Morgante said of Mr. Kaplicky. “He is missed every day. I would turn towards the sky to say I hope we are doing this right.”
He said that part of the challenge was selling the city’s elected officials and citizens on the design, whose curved yellow roof with vents would come to be known locally as “the Hood.”
“This is one of the most traditional cities in Italy, so it stands out like a yellow thumb,” Mr. Morgante said. “It is an oversize crossbreed of car design, architecture and the most advanced engineering. After seven years, it is quite an amazing achievement.”
The museum was the product of an alliance of civic groups who wanted to lure tourists to a town best known for its vinegar and its 12th-century cathedral and piazza. The officials hope visitors will come to the old Ferrari house, where Enzo was born in 1898, to view effects from his daily life, like his famous pen and signature purple ink, as well as the bold structure next door. The complex is about 12 miles from Ferrari’s headquarters in Maranello.
Beneath what appear to be huge air vents, the museum houses 21 vehicles, engines and other exhibits about the motor history of the area, “from the street circuit of Modena to the motor racing circuit to the Mille Miglia; from Scaglietti, Fantuzzi, Stanguellini to Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, as well as Alfa Romeo,” accoring to literature from the museum. The contrast between the yellow, taken from the Ferrari shield, and Ferrari red, the Italian racing color dominant in Maranello, could not be starker.
The new museum has had a somewhat uneasy relationship with Ferrari the automaker, whose attractions at Maranello include another museum, the factory and star architecture in the form of a wind tunnel by Renzo Piano. “We are like a stone in their shoe,” Mr. Morgante said.
“We did it with a small budget of 18 million euros,” he said. “Ferrari was not financing it.”
In 2003, a competition was held among eight architects selected by Domus magazine. The winner, named in 2004, was Future Systems, which included Mr. Kaplicky and his partner and wife, Amanda Levete. The firm, which was based in London, was known for dramatic, rounded structures called bionic or blobomorphic designs, the most recognizable of which are the massive, bulging Selfridge’s department store in Birmingham, England, and the media center for the Lord’s cricket ground, which resembles something out of the cartoon show “Futurama.”
But the partnership, and the marriage, foundered. Mr. Kaplicky’s last major project, a library for the Czech Republic, was canceled in 2008. The next year, he died suddenly in Prague, the city of his birth, at age 71. The Design Museum in London mounted a commemorative exhibition of his work.
Mr. Morgante said the “car as museum,” as Mr. Kaplicky described it, summarized the architect’s fascination with everything that moved, be it cars, planes or boats. “That motion was a constant source of inspiration,” he said. A boat builder was called to consult on the construction of the hull-like aluminum roof.
Mr. Morgante expects many visitors to come not just for Ferrari, but for Kaplicky.