Reggio Emilia is a town with a strong contemporary vocation. Many buildings with a famous past underwent industrial archeology interventions and now host some of the most important excellences of the area. From the Tecnopolo to the Fonderia39, from the Maramotti Art Collection to Calatrava’s works, we will spend two days walking in the town to discover some contemporary artworks that have redefined the town's skyline in a modern way.
The two new gates to the town are the starting point of this contemporary itinerary. The Mediopadana high-speed station, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, is located just 4 km from the town centre, while the bridges, also called Vele, with their sinuous and light shapes, introduce the Reggio Emilia of the XXI century from the motorway.
The bridges can be considered as the new symbol of Reggio Emilia: starting from the Renaissance, the town has, century after century, entrusted its image to a new monument, first erecting the Basilica of San Prospero in memory of the Patron Saint, then in the XVII century the Basilica della Ghiara, the aristocratic Royal Palace of Rivalta in the XVIII century, the Municipal Theatre in the XIX century, the Officine Meccaniche Reggiane (Reggiane Mechanical Workshops) in the XX century, to finish, in the XXI century, with the imposing new town gates.
Heading towards the town centre, in the area overlooking the Reggio Emilia Railway Station, there is a large parking area (called CIM interchange mobility hub) where it is possible to leave one’s own vehicle free of charge.
The area dominated by the Innovation Park occupies the spaces of the Officine Meccaniche Reggiane (Reggiane Mechanical Workshops), the fourth Italian factory in the XX century. The Reggiane are now considered the biggest street-art workshop in Europe. Although part of the warehouses are still unusable, it is possible to admire large murals on the perimeter of the area, in the redeveloped Sheds 17, 18 and in the Tecnopolo.
A few steps away is the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, housed in the former Locatelli seasoning warehouses. The Centre, one of the internationally recognized Reggio Emilia excellences, was created to continue the work and studies of pedagogist Loris Malaguzzi. His approach to childhood and the world of children has inspired entire generations starting from the 80s, calling to Reggio Emilia teachers, students, scholars and pedagogists from all over the world.
Along the underpass that leads from Piazzale Europa to the Reggio Emilia Railway Station, there is a bicycle rental hub, useful to discover the town in less time.
Walking on viale IV Novembre you arrive on the via Emilia, a historic Roman road that crosses the town centre. Continuing for about 300 metres, on the right you can visit the Monumental San Pietro Cloisters, a former XVI-century monastic complex. The small cloister is characterized by a typically Renaissance Brunelleschi-style layout; the large cloister is completely different, influenced by the model of Palazzo Te in Mantua. In front of the monumental complex is the Open Workshop, with a co-working space, a laboratory that hosts various cultural activities and a coffee bar.
The following day is dedicated to the town’s contemporary artworks, starting with the project "Invitation to .…” carried out between 2004 and 2006, when four international protagonists - Sol LeWitt, Luciano Fabro, Richard Morris, Eliseo Mattiacci - created permanent works for four historic places in the town.
From the San Domenico Cloisters to the Panizzi Library, from the former Zucchi Barracks to the National Dance Foundation Aterballetto, looking for the works of "Invitation to ..." it is possible to discover a new dialogue among urban fabric, art and contemporaneity. All contemporary works of art are located in the town centre, except Danza di Astri e di Stelle (Dance of Stars) by Eliseo Mattiacci, which is about 1.5 km away.
Even inside a church it is possible to find contemporary artworks. During the restoration of the Cathedral, that reopened in 2010, a lot of contemporary artists made new works, full of Catholic significance: the Easter candelabrum by Ettore Spalletti, the decorated ambo by the Japanese artist Hidetoshi Nagasawa, the altar of Claudio Parmeggiani, the ceramic works by Graziano Pompili and the sculptures by Giovanni Menada.
From the town centre we move to the Maramotti Contemporary Art Collection. To reach it easily it is possible to catch the Minibus, an urban bus that crosses the town centre and arrives right in front of it.
The Art Collection, set up inside the first Max Mara factory, is a work in progress, consisting of the personal art collection of Achille Maramotti, extraordinary art admirer and founder of the industrial group, and enriched with recent acquisitions in the last few years.
On display are over two hundred works, such as paintings, sculptures and installations, representing the main Italian and international artistic trends from 1945 until now. But it is the building itself that is an extraordinary work of industrial archeology: from a former fashion tailoring factory to one of the most important art collections in Italy.