National Automobile Museum of Turin, Italy

The Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile (The National Automobile Museum), founded by Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia, is an automobile museum in Turin, northern Italy. The museum has a collection of almost 200 cars among eighty automobile brands representing eight countries (Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, United States of America, Poland). The museum is situated in a building dating from 1960, and it has three floors. After restructuring in 2011 the museum is open again, and its exhibition area has been expanded from 11,000 square metres (120,000 sq ft) to 19,000 square metres (200,000 sq ft). The museum also has its own library, documentation centre, bookshop and auditorium.

The Automobile Museum was set up in 1932 based on the idea of two pioneers of Italian motoring,Cesare Goria Gatti and Roberto Biscaretti di Ruffia (the first President of the Turin Automobile Club and one of the founders of the Fiat company), and is one of the oldest Automobile Museums in the world.

It was Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia(Roberto’s son), a Turin aristocrat born in 1879, who attached his name permanently to the National Automobile Museum, since he was the one who conceived it, gathered together the initial collection, strove to bring it into being and worked his whole life to give it decent headquarters. Carlo Biscaretti was also its first President and on his death in September 1959, the Board of Directors passed a resolution to name the Museum after him; it was then formally opened on 3 November 1960.
This is the only National Museum of this kind in Italy, housed in the premises designed by the architect Amedeo Albertini, on the left bank of the Po river and a short distance from the Lingotto; it is one of the few buildings specially constructed to house a museum collection, and is also a rare example of modern architecture.
The Museum has one of the rarest and most interesting collections of its kind, with almost 200 original cars dating from the mid-19th century to the present day, and over eighty different makes of vehicle, from Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Spain, Poland and the United States. In 2002 the Museum directors started to think about works to renew the structure and contents. Forty years had passed, and the Museum had by now become dated and obsolete, so that change was needed to make it more appealing.

The work of the examining board for the international competition to renew the Museum was concluded in summer 2005. Around fifty world-level architecture studios took part, and the winner was the group composed of the architect Cino Zucchi, the Recchi Engineering Srl company and the Proger SpA firm.
The winning design (which complied with the requirements as advertised, using a coherent approach that could reorganise the existing building and create new spaces to relate to the city), included the relationship between the quick visual perception from Corso Unità d’Italia and the defining of a more enclosed pedestrian area at the point where it joins Via Richelmy.

In common with many contemporary European examples, the strictly display functions will be supplemented by a set of complementary activities to make the Automobile Museum come alive at all times of day and evening, and become an element to lead the way in the urban renewal of the city’s southern quadrant.
Zucchi’s design will be enhanced with the displays by the Franco-Swiss set-designer Francois Confino.

The experience acquired by Francois Confino in other, similar projects (he designed the interior fittings for the Turin Cinema Museum), played a useful role in devising a brand-new concept that will place the Turin Museum at the cutting-edge in the field of the art of exhibiting motor cars. The guiding principle will be “the car observed as a creation of genius and of the human imagination”, to make people aware of, and appreciate the immense pool of talent, creativity, craftsmanship and entrepreneurial abilities that exist in Turin and in Piedmont.

In the new Museum, we will tell the story of the motor car, its transformation from a means of transport to an object of worship, from its origins right up to the contemporary evolution of creative thought. Through the evolution of the car, we will narrate the epoch-making times that society has experienced.

Born as the National Automobile Museum, it originates from a proposal made during the congress organized by the Turin Automobile Club in 1932, to celebrate the “Automobile Veterans”, ie those who had obtained a driving license for at least 25 years.. The pioneers of the proposal were two pioneers of Italian motoring, Cesare Goria Gatti and Roberto Biscaretti di Ruffia, both co-founders of the Automobile Club and FIAT.

In 1933 Giuseppe Acutis, president of the Automobile Manufacturers Association, invited Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia and Giuseppe di Miceli, then director of the Turin Automobile Club, to organize a retrospective exhibition within the Milan Motor Show, to probe the interest of fans in view of any developments. Carlo Biscaretti had been at a very young age alongside his father Roberto, dedicating all his activities as an artist, technician and journalist to his passion for engines. He managed to borrow around thirty cars which were presented at the show, raising great interest in the public.

On July 19, 1933, the City of Turin decided to found the museum, appointing a special promoting committee and obtaining the approval of the Head of Government, Benito Mussolini, who personally imposed the name “National Automobile Museum”. A few days later, the mayor of Turin, Paolo Thaon di Revel, entrusted Carlo Biscaretti with the role of “temporary authorizing officer”, which would last for twenty years. The main problem was finding a suitable location. The acquisitions were concentrated initially in a warehouse in via Andorno, in the former Fabbrica Aquila Italiana(the collection would then change address four more times before arriving at the definitive one of Corso Unità d’Italia) until in 1938 the existing material was transferred, consisting now of a hundred cars and chassis, a library and an archive, in the premises created under the steps of the municipal stadium, officially opened to the public in May 1939. However, the accommodation was not very functional. The rooms were unsuitable, with sudden changes in temperature which discouraged the flow of visitors and damaged the materials. During the second world warthe collection remained almost intact both during the bombing and during the subsequent presence of the allied troops, but the library and the archive were partially destroyed or dispersed. After the conflict, there was a return to talk about a new arrangement and a definitive structuring of the institution. The Builders Association began to take an interest in the museum and in July 1955 decided to promote the construction of a new location. The land was found in Corso Unità d’Italia, owned by the Municipality of Turin; financing was secured by car factories and the Agnelli family, to which tire houses, oil companies, city banks and other entities were soon added.

While construction work began, the organization was re-founded and renamed “Automobile Museum”, with a notarial deed of 22 February 1957, then recognized by decree of the President of the Republic on 8 October of the same year. Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia was appointed president of the board of directors. Upon his death in September 1959, the council unanimously decided that the institution would bear his name, in memory of his commitment to building the museum. The museum was solemnly opened to the public on November 3, 1960 shortly before Expo 1961. Throughout its history, the museum has been enriched with new sections: the documentation center and the library. In 1975 the library and the center were considerably enriched with books, original documents and photographs, thanks to the Canestrini bequest. In recent years the limits of the building have become increasingly evident, especially due to the lack of exhibition spaces, now saturated. In 2003 the museum was approved by the City of Turin and on 10 April 2007 the museum was closed to the public to start a major restructuring process that will affect it for 3 years until 19 March 2011.

In addition to a restructuring of the building and its internal spaces, both exhibition and service, in accordance with the City of Turin, the organization of the organization is also significantly revised, which is re-founded. The new structure is therefore completely revised both in its administrative organization and in the internal and external spaces; the area surrounding the building is re-evaluated and a new body is added to the building itself with a volume greater than the existing one. The internal spaces received a complete change in the layout and the exhibition itinerary. The collection is complemented by interactive settings and installations and is divided into three distinct parts, one on each floor. The neighborhood is also revalued by the museum itself with a series of complementary activities that make the Automobile Museum live at all times of the day and evening; becoming a driving element of the urban renewal of the southern quadrant of the city.

March 19 2011, during the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy in progress in the city, in the presence of President Giorgio Napolitano who after visiting the museum said: “Art and industry are our strength”, the museum has reopened its doors to the public, presenting the new layout. At the time of the inauguration, in addition to the president Giuseppe Alberto Zunino, the new management was also made up of the director Rodolfo Gaffino Rossi, and the Board of Directors made up of a representative of the Piedmont Region,Municipality of Turin, Province of Turin, Automobile Club of Italy and Fiat, the architectural renovation project was financed by the Municipality of Turin, while the museum project was financed by the Piedmont Region, Province of Turin, Automobile Club d Italy, Turin Chamber of Commerce, Compagnia di San Paolo and CRT Foundation . The new president is the architect Benedetto Camerana while the director is always Rodolfo Gaffino Rossi. After the first 30 days of its reopening, the museum received 40,000 visitors, 9,200 in the first weekend only.

The museum

The building

The headquarters that stands on the left bank of the Po not far from the Lingotto, since 1960 houses the Turin Automobile Museum and is among the few buildings built specifically to house the collection of a museum and also represents a particular example of modern architecture. The project is the work of the architect Amedeo Albertini, author, in Turin, also of the SAI building, the Lavazza factory, and the RIV offices; the reinforced concrete structures were calculated by the engineer Ivailo Ludogoroff. There were two factors taken into consideration for the start of the project: the panoramic position towards the river Po and the hill, and the particular character of the material to be exhibited which did not adapt to a collected and delimited environment but which already evoked in itself the concept of large spaces. The building, in its original design from 1960, is therefore characterized by an imposing façade covered in stone, with a convex shape developed in length, which gives the illusion of being suspended on a glazing below; in truth the facade is supported by a large iron beam weighing 60 tons and rests on four large pillars in stainless steel and concrete. The whole building had been built on an artificial hill and consisted of a main volume as wide as the facade but which tended to shrink as it moved towards the interior of the hill. From this building two suspended side modules went to connect to a second building which had about the same volume as the first and therefore created a winter garden in the inner courtyard of the museum. At the second block, a third volume, with very industrial features, skylights, was detached (rearwardly moved to the side)on the roof and exposed brick, which threw the plan of the building creating a small “tail”. One of the most original features is the solution for supporting the connecting sleeves between the main and transversal buildings, which have an original “V” geometry.

In 2011 the museum’s seat was reopened after a substantial renovation that covered almost all parts of the original building, keeping them intact but heavily revisited inside them. A new building is added to the original building, the level of the hill is lowered and therefore the way of access to the building is changed for those coming from the street. The basement space used to house the cars of the collection not exhibited in the actual museum and the school of restoration is added. The internal courtyard is transformed into a large room closed by a roof designed to maximize illumination from the sun. The style of the intervention can be traced back tohigh-tech architecture, both in the exterior and in the interior. All the bodies of the new building are covered, only on one side, by a lateral tape detached from the bodies themselves. The facade, although it has received some modernizations, has remained unchanged, as has the rear “tail”. In truth, the pre-existing buildings have not undergone architectural changes, even the characteristic main internal staircase has remained unchanged, even if in the new project the acceptance is located close to the large internal atrium from which the escalators leave, causing the exhibition itinerary starts from the second floor. The restructuring operation has cost 33 million EUR(23 of which financed by the City of Turin which became a member in November 2011), 2/3 of which were spent on the renovation of the building and 1/3 on the interior fittings. The redevelopment of the museum has brought to almost double the space useful for exhibitions: from 11,000 square meters of the previous structure to over 19,000 m² of the current one. The tender for the renovation of the building was won by the architect Cino Zucchi from Milan, Recchi Engineering from Turin and Proger from Rome, out of a total of 38 candidates. The museum layout project was conceived by the Franco-Swiss scenographer François Confino with the collaboration of Studio LL.TT Cravetto-Pagella Architetti Associati, the architect Carlo Fucini and the Canadian light designer François Roupinian.

The exhibition itinerary
The museum exhibit was revised on the occasion of the renovation and, in a completely renewed guise, reopens to the public in 2011. The cars are arranged in more than 30 rooms set up with sets and installations where the cars are contextualized. Although the museum’s permanent collection includes more than 200 cars, of these exhibit around 160; the others are kept in the so-called Garage located in the basement of the new building (together with the School of restoration) and can be visited on explicit request. In addition to the cars in the permanent collection, the museum also has a temporary exhibition, where it exhibitsconcept car, models or concept on mobility. The exhibition displays cars produced between 1769 and 1996 (excluding the concepts and cars on temporary display). The models on display are original and belong to 80 car manufacturers. The cars on display are then distributed over the three floors of the building starting from the second floor; for each floor the exhibition is characterized by a theme:

The automobile and the twentieth century: This section of the exhibition talks about the history of the automobile.
Man and the car: The relationship between man and the car is discussed on the first floor of the structure.
The automobile and design: The relationship between the automobile and industrial design is discussed in the last section of the exhibition.
The documentation center
The documentation center (to which an area of 800 m² designed by Studio LL.TT is dedicated) collects documents relating to the car. The center is also divided into sections, which reflect the thematic subdivision of the library: history of the factories, biographies, history of racing, history of technology, miscellaneous, industrial vehicles, Italian and foreign coachbuilders, auto shows, automobile museums. The library collects around 7000 texts. It is divided into seven sections (history of locomotion, history of brands, racing, technology, biographies, circulation and traffic, economy and various). Inside the documentation center there is also a newspaper library.

21 rooms, over an area of 3,600 square metres, tell how the car was born, was developed and became popular, keeping pace with the evolution of the 20th century. The itinerary is circular and takes visitors from the Library in “Genesis”, the first room, where information about the origin of locomotion is given and homage is paid to the many ingenious precursors of the mechanical engine, to the “Destiny” room, the last on this floor. Here, an attempt is made to get us to imagine the world we will find ourselves living in tomorrow. In between, there are nineteen other rooms telling the story of the twentieth century, taking in Futurism, the First World War, the advent of the utilitarian car, the Italian school of body work, the discovery of aerodynamics, female emancipation, the race towards mass production, the fall of the Berlin Wall, American advertising slogans, consumerism and ecology. It’s a story with many different threads, the guiding principle being to make us understand how far the motor car influenced, conditioned and favoured the most distinctive historical, economic, artistic and social events of the last century.

From Man to Machine: The Story of a Dream
This is the first section af the Museum permanent exhibition. The visit starts from the second floor. The Beginnings. Auto-Mobile: literally, “moves by itself”. When was it first created? Who invented it? There is no simple answer. The internal combustion engine was first tried out in the late nineteenth century, in various parts of the world, by brilliant scientists who often knew nothing of what their colleagues were doing. It was really the combination and application of a series of historic inventions such as the steering wheel, suspension systems, differential gears, universal joints and brakes that led to the birth of the automobile. Without these inventions, which are illustrated on the four monitors, the car would never have come into existence. Man has always tried to free himself from animal movement and for many long centuries dreamt and thought up the most diverse and ingenious methods to move quickly and freely. This is why in this sort of universal library we find pedal, sail, wind, steam, gas and petrol vehicles and even electric roller skates. This section pays tribute to all those who invented an auto-mobile before the automobile was invented. The first is the Italian genius of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, a reconstruction of whose spring-operated vehicle, from a folio of the Codex Atlanticus, is shown here.

Horse Power Becomes a Ghost
Steam was the main driving force in the nineteenth century industrial revolution and it is thanks to the steam engine that the carriages of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which had enabled the creation of a considerable communications network between the largest European cities and within the countries themselves, were gradually accompanied by horsepower, while all the time maintaining their appearance intact. But this would soon change completely.

At Top Speed
What was that: a flash of lightning, a torpedo, a gust of wind? No, that was La Jamais Contente – “the never satisfied” – speeding by. The work of a very ingenious, inventive and courageous Belgian driver and car builder, Camille Jenatzy, in May 1899 it became the first car in the world to break through the 100 km/h mark (actually, 105 km/h). After hundreds, and indeed thousands, of years when the highest speeds had been those of oxen and horses, within just a few decades (from the mid nineteenth century, first with the locomotive and then with the automobile), engines allowed man to reach extraordinary speeds that had never been witnessed before, shortening distances, cutting travelling times, bringing people and places closer, and making possible new forms of visits, contacts and trade. One important detail: La Jamais Contente was powered not by a petrol engine but by an electric motor in a futuristic torpedo-shaped body with a meticulously streamlined design that only forgot to consider… Jenatzy himself! The 100 km/h record had enormous reverberations and reinforced the then current conviction that electric motors would be the way to the future. But just three years was all it took to quash this idea, and the evolution of the automobile throughout the twentieth century fully confirmed this.

The Great Garage Of The Future
A big garage where automobiles are designed and take shape. Whether they be the first attempts, the results of small manufacturers, or the debut of future companies, the world of four-wheeled vehicles expands rapidly and with enthusiasm, with ever different shapes and solutions.

The collection
The permanent collection of the museum has about 200 cars, plus some chassis and about twenty engines. The cars are around 80 different brands (many of these disappeared) representing ten countries (Italy, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Poland, Spain, Russia and the United States of America).

Among the various cars there are also racing cars and formula one cars such as Michael Schumacher ‘s Ferrari F310 from 1996, the Alfa Romeo 179B car or the 155 V6 TI famous for having dominated the DTM since its first year of participation.

The “Garage” and the “School of restoration”
In the basement, created together with the new building thanks to the restoration of 2011, there is, in an area of about 2000 m², the so-called Garage where the heritage of the unexposed museum is preserved. These cars are not part of the museum’s permanent collection for logistical reasons. The cars in this section are inserted in rotation over the years. Together with this room, the basement also houses the restoration school where the cars are restored and then exhibited.

Guided tour

Classic guided tour
Thanks to a team of expert guides who speak 11 different languages, your visit to MAUTO will become an engaging experience in which to discover the stories and curiosities related to the most important pieces of our collection and the cultural contexts that have accompanied its evolution. The guided tour begins on the second floor of the museum and is divided into over 30 sections of the exhibition.

Personalized guided tour
Do you have any particular and specific curiosities about the museum’s collection or about the world of the automobile in general? Our guides, together with the staff of the MAUTO Documentation Center, will organize a completely personalized guided tour for you, declining it according to your specific interests!

Asphalt and Star Powder
Cinema and automobile are two contemporary inventions, two ingenious intuitions which, from the late nineteenth century onwards, have transformed the life and customs of the whole world. Do not miss the special guided tour to discover the specimens of the MAUTO – Museo dell’Automobile collection that have been protagonists of great cinema! The maximum number of participants for each visit group is 25 people

The Car: Female Substantive
Cherchez la femme… in the automotive world? Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the invention of the car took the first timid steps to establish itself and women approached the world of engines with interest and curiosity. Fashion, advertising, design… everything changes to satisfy the female world and its relationship with the car. It is the story of an era that winds through an exhibition path entirely declined to the female: a story made of conquests, because emancipation also passes through driving a car!

Cars Stories
A guided tour dedicated to the little ones and their families, to discover the exciting stories of the most representative cars of the collection and the adventurous drivers who drove them.
A playful way to visit our path and to learn while having fun.

Theatrical guided tour – Novecento
The theatrical visit develops in the part of the museum itinerary dedicated to the history of the automobile and tells in an engaging and entertaining way the great events that marked the twentieth century. The leading actors will take you on a real journey through time, with continuous twists, gags and tricks. A truly unique visit!

Theatrical guided tour – Start Your Safety
The visit takes place between the second and first floors of the museum. The path tells the evolution of safety devices studied and designed in cars from the early 1900s to today, offering food for thought on the change in human behavior in terms of safety and social respect: the passion for speed, technology, the laws and our risky attitudes. The interactive visit will offer you food for thought on the subject of safety and will suggest more virtuous and safe behaviors. For you and others!

Other facilities and services
The building contains rooms and services purely related to the museum and to carry out complementary activities. In fact, there are related services such as a bookshop, a bar and a 150-seat conference room.