Alfa Romeo Museum: Identity Built By Colors


The light which preserves its mystery since the times mankind existed till today, embodies the secret of its beauty’s nature. Isaac Newton, a scientist whose one foot stands still in the Middle Ages, reveals this mystery everyone had been chasing in 1666: the colors within white light. The daylight which is passed through glass prism breaks and separates into the colors it holds. This physical phenomenon changes in many places of the history through nurturing by culture, geography and produces numerous emotions and meanings depending on each area of usage. Nowadays, on the other hand, the automobile object which corresponds to descriptions such as ‘’object of fetish’’ or ‘’reflection of ego’’ along with the color wraps the designs in utterly different formats. The brand Alfa Romeo, also builds its messages, which it aspires to forward the users, on the basis of colors and it mostly prefers for the architecture of museum and through designs such as ‘’the symbol of unstoppable power’’ and ‘’the speed that changes the truth’’.

Alfa Romeo Museum, museum dust, Cigdem Aslantas
Photos: Cigdem Aslantas

General Information
Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (A.L.F.A.) - Alfa Romeo was established in 1910 in Milan. Alfa Romeo, a brand famous for its sports cars despite manufacturing various vehicles such as truck, van and trolley bus initially; it begins to produce personal autos later on. This brand with its deep rooted history aims to construct its own museum along with its history and previous means of transport in an appropriate format which is compatible with the brand’s identity. The museum was opened first on December 18, 1976 accordingly. Though, later in 2011 it was closed and went back into service with the design of architect Benedetto Camerana in June 2015.

The campus of museum is selected in the Area of Arese, where the first factory of the brand is present. In the area, a gigantic red installation, which continues along the way from the ceiling towards entrance and from entrance to the exhibition place, welcomes the visitors. This architectural addition that can be seen easily from the main road due to its shiny “Alfa red”, symbolizes the rebirth of the museum along with its connection with past and future. White and red colored pillars which are used at this reception feature the first hints of the construction of inside. At the main entrance, the first talk with the place is made through a A 4C Spider automobile which stands on a bright white exposition unit. At this stage, the artistic exhibition of this design, which is limitedly produced despite being an object of mass-production, evokes feelings of admiration on the visitors. The balance that is made of such admirable complicated object and the surprising plainness of its exposition construction makes it even harder to focus. All of the lights slide through the organic lines of the red colored body of glamorous design which is on display. Just like a harmonic dance show.

On the entrance floor, natural light obtained with wide glass panels is used as much as possible as a lighting element. For this reason, while the daylight is being used generously, ceiling lights and spotlighting are also used for extra support. Grey anthracite floors applied throughout the place and ceiling panels along with that, alleviate the effect created by the architecture at the entrance. This place is followed by the documentation center and the museum shop which is located at the opposite side. The documentation and reception bench feature the first interior reflections of red gigantic installation that stands outside. While the organic forms of exhibited automobiles correspond to the fluidity of museum construction; this attitude has been tried to get caught via acrylic material. This shiny red structure, which proceeds throughout the ceiling, takes on the task of a guide within the place; as well as keeping the visitor dynamic.

The visitor, after passing the turnstiles, encounters with the brand’s race cars at the main exhibition place. These automobiles from various periods along with displayed enormous aircraft engines leave great impacts on the individual. Especially, the engines with their ravishing industrial tech details as well as their enormous sizes create admiration. This section is, in fact, an indication that manmade industrial products may also be artistic. The brand, in a way, shows that its designs can create a sense of admiration with their inner structures as much as their stunning outer shells. It kind of proves that engineers are as good as designers in composing admirable works of art. The place comes to an end with a connection to upper exhibition areas via staircase. The design of the staircase in the form of a red tunnel and the support coming from multimedia display on the left side of this fiction prepares visitors to the upper exhibition volumes. It plays the role of the first ceremony of fascinating parade of those that will soon be seen. The museum construction performs the essence of the brand in three separate parts on the upper floors: “Timeline” in which the industrial continuity is represented, “Beauty” where the style and design comes together and “Speed” that summarizes technology and lightness.

At the end of the entrance floor, it is connected to a “Timeline” area through stairs inserted in a red tunnel. It is passed sharply from the clear, consistent effect created by the red volume towards the white fiction. At this place, 19 automobile designs are exhibited in which the growth of brand is represented in the best way and each one of them contains a multimedia briefing panel. The vehicles, each being legendary, put the visitor through time travel in accordance with the name of the department they are in. Within this fiction, integrity of a commonly styled brand language in automobiles cannot be captured at first glance, when designs are examined widely. It is a bit confusing at first to have such gorgeous vehicles in quite different styles representing the same brand. However; the fact that the cars were handled by different design studios at the time and its notification at the back of designs clarify the situation.

The exhibition is completed with an “interactive memory” which is a smart station that can be reached by visitors to gain further details regarding the history of each model. Exposition units are designed as white and wavy patterned on light grey walls. There is a multimedia area in which a visual show is performed as a tribute for those who contributed to the brand’s history of 100 years such as masters, designers and engineers. Entering this area with a curtained opening gives a strange feeling of warmth after so much plastic-derived material and intensive artificial lighting. Here, at the cine-vision section there are scenes showing Alfa Romeo cars used in cult films within cinema history.

Here the actual remarkable point is the mental effect of the synergy of object designs along with cinema as a strong branch of art. When brain considers the moment as one full of emotions, it records everything thoroughly with full details of that scene. For this reason, the viewer memorizes the details from the scenes of high emotion-intensive as if they are their own life memories. Thus, the individual permanently records in his or her personal memory, even if there was no physical interaction with the objects complementary to the scene. The Alfa Romeo 6C model, which constitutes a significant example to this point, is exhibited here. This automobile was used in one of the cult scenes from The Godfather I in which Al Pacino’s first wife, Apollonia, was assassinated. The fact that the design pops out of the folder of movie frames and can be felt physically, makes the individual take his own personal time journey.

The second part which is placed on the ground floor of the exhibition is named as “Beauty” and contains several themed areas. The arrangement welcomes the visitor with a construction that reflects the style of the big automobile producers as in the “Italian School” which exhibits automobiles made by the Touring workshop with Superleggera brand and “Style Masters”, which combines 9 major design examples from every era. The exposition scenario, in which Gulia TZ series is placed, seems to be constructed quite cleverly as well. Design of 6 automobiles from the series is inserted on a curved platform in a way the details from upper sides can be viewed clearly. In this fiction, mirror installations placed instead of information units on the wall make it possible to see many details from different angles which could not be observed in the rear parts of the product. In the center, on the other hand, “Alfa Romeo in Movies” takes part. It is followed by “Giulietta Phenomenon”, “Giulia: Design of the Wind” and models from 1950s and 60s which accompanied the growth of economy and Italian style.

On this floor, contrary to “Timeline”, designs are not exhibited all together but separately at places specific to them and with bigger lighting. The light gray display units are placed in a larger, curved shape hanging from the top, corresponding to the platforms. Contrary to the diminishing effect of the anthracite gray ceramics on the ground floor, it takes on the task of separating the designs from the place. This distinction sets the focus on the object being displayed in a clear way as the mind passes through the designs, with a harmonic interplay of local illumination from above and ambience. The briefings are made with half-moon-shaped units hanging from the ceiling instead of digital screens.

The area that lies throughout the mid-ground floor is constituted with the concept of “Speed” as part of the third section of museum construction. Legendary race cars are exhibited at this area which is quite dark contrary to the other ones. The main theme “speed” is felt physically due to the sound and created visual ambiance inside. The color red plays a crucial role in a multimedia section where the subjects of the races held in between the two world wars such as “A legend was born” and “Racing in Alfa Romeo's DNA” are gathered together. The sloping placement of the racing cars in front of this multi-vision makes the visitor feel as if he is watching the race quite closely. Briefing units, colored in white and red, are placed in front of these inclined exposition units. In the next section, the visitors go to the area described as 'Temple of Victories', which demonstrates the 10 greatest victories in Alfa Romeo history showing paintings, sounds and films.

The final of the museum is completed in a special room with 360 degree virtual reality movie screens where you can sit on interactive chairs and watch 4D movies about Alfa Romeo's legendary successes.

The meaning attributed to colors and the emotions produced afterwards make their use and preference important because of their ability to speed up the communication. Its correspondent in architecture is gained through the common usage of the message to be conveyed or the feelings and colors to be created together with different elements. This situation remains in the forefront at “Brand Museums” where values, way above their commercial values, are generated. Alfa Romeo Museum, a car-brand museum, is also making its own active and dynamic interaction through a fiction where colors are dominant. The message that is aimed to be conveyed in different parts of the brand is found in a scenario where the color phenomenon takes on the task of locomotive factor. The brand’s testimonial of 100 years regarding the mankind and his surrounding environment is constituted through colors as much as the designs.


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