movable Kinetic Roof by Carlo Ratti on revived historical edifice


Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and architect Italo Rota have transformed a former hospital dating back to 18th-Century into a new cultural center in the city of Modena, Italy. The sweeping makeover sees an origami-like kinetic roof that adds a dynamic character to the monumental space of AGO Modena Fabbriche Culturali, all the while enabling openness and transparency without distracting from its historical qualities. The aim of the project was to provoke a smooth dialogue between the old and the new, fostering a multitude of spatial experiences. The lively roof, designed in collaboration with artist-engineer Chuck Hoberman (one of the world’s leading experts in dynamic structure design and a former collaborator with NASA), tops a triangular-shaped plaza and, with its lightweight and foldable skeleton, effortlessly converts the neglected yard into a cultural and social hub adaptable to different climatic conditions and functions. 


‘Cultural places should be thought of as dynamic, capable of incorporating change over time,’ says Carlo
Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. ‘The changing nature of the built environment enables, in turn, a participatory approach to activate cultural production. AGO’s architecture sets up flexible, reconfigurable spaces where past and future complement each other.’ unfolding like origami, carlo ratti's kinetic roof tops restored historical landmark in italyimage by ©CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati | garden terrace  



a new cultural and innovation hub


Measuring 20,000 sqm (210,000 sqft), the scheme of AGO Modena proposes an innovative approach that sees transformative qualities of kinetic architecture while at the same time it provokes a conversation with its history and heritage. This unconventional mix contributes to AGO Modena’s flexibility to adapt to changing future configurations. Historical and contemporary traces are evident throughout the building, with a subtle direction that respects its personality. Extraordinary ‘Tenaglie’ corridors lead visitors to the chimney courtyard, where another kinetic installation takes visitors to a new rooftop terrace. Here, one can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Modena’s old house roofs and church domes. The new project by the International design studio Carlo Ratti Associati (see more here) and Italo Rota (more here) also accommodates photovoltaic panels to harvest solar energy and sustainably power the complex.


‘When we took a close look at AGO’s past, we discovered a panoply of histories, characters, and functions,’ architect Italo Rota says. ‘Because the complex had so many pasts, we thought our design should allow it to embody a multiplicity of futures. AGO Modena is the perfect embodiment of this approach as it brings together museums, training and co-working space under the same roof.’

unfolding like origami, carlo ratti's kinetic roof tops restored historical landmark in italy

image by ©CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati | chimney courtyard



The AGO site is situated at the entrance to Modena’s medieval city center, whose monuments are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. Established by the City of Modena, Fondazione di Modena and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, the project will accommodate numerous entities across many disciplines, including the Modena Visual Arts Foundation, parts of the book collection from the 14th-century library Biblioteca Estense, the Museo della Figurina dedicated to collectible cards, and the Interdepartmental Research Center on Digital Humanities.


‘In many cases, the restoration of an ancient building leads to a static result that does not interact much with what will be contained inside. In the project for the former Sant’Agostino Hospital, we strive to restore the ancient and monumental space and free it from any obstruction. Moreover, the project seeks an openness to be in dialogue with future installations,’ comments architect Francesco Doglioni, an expert in the field of restoration and a project’s team member. ‘What we aimed for while enhancing the building’s ancient components is dynamic reconfigurability: reversible and adaptive to continuous transformation. The restoration is left deliberately unfinished in some places. This leaves the building room to undergo further evolutions, provoking a constant tension between the old and the new.’

unfolding like origami, carlo ratti's kinetic roof tops restored historical landmark in italyimage by ©CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati | manica lunga




project info:


name: AGO Modena Fabbriche Culturali
architects: Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) | @carloassociati and Italo Rota | @italorotastudio
CRA team: Carlo Ratti, Andrea Cassi (partner in charge), Francesco Strocchio (project manager), Valentina Grasso (preliminary phases project manager), Alba Leon Alvarez, Lorenzo Anghinoni, Iratxe De Dios, Serena Giardina, Giulia Lodetti, Eugenia Macchia, Nicolette Marzovilla, Giovanni Trogu, Gizem Veral, Jelena Krco, Matteo Zerbi, Gary Di Silvio, Pasquale Millieri, Gianluca Zimbardi

kinetic roof: Hoberman Associates (Chuck Hoberman, Matthew Davis)
kinetic roof structure: INGEMBP (Corrado Curti)
restoration: Studio Associato Architetti Francesco Doglioni e Renata Daminato (Francesco Doglioni)
Structural, mechanical and electrical engineering and safety: Politecnica (Luciano Gasparini, Giorgio Poggi,
Francesco Micheletti, Ferdinando Sarno, Francesco Frassineti, Claudio Pongolini, Ilaria Mazzi, Claudia Zironi,
Giovanni Gamberini, Giuliana Bellei, Francesca Ficarra, Massimo Trento, Tania Costantini, Sergio Boccaletti,
Emanuela Gosti)
landscape: Studio Laura Gatti (Laura Gatti, Marco Peterle)
acoustics: Vibes (Alessia Griginis, Sabrina Canale)
fire prevention: GAE Engineering (Giuseppe Amaro, Valentina Crimì)
lighting: Light Follows Behaviour (Elettra Bordonaro, Argun Paragamyan)
cost consultant: Marco Figazzolo