Ravenna, Rocca Brancaleone could radically change its appearance with metal towers and... a veil

Ravenna, Rocca Brancaleone could radically change its appearance: plans to add metal towers and a velarium.

Ravenna’s Rocca Brancaleone, the 15th-century Venetian fortress that was the scene of battles during the Renaissance period and one of the historic monuments of the city of Ravenna, could change its appearance radically with the recovery project that is to enhance its role as an event venue. In fact, the idea is to transform the Rocca into a sort of theater for concerts of national and international scope with 1,500 seats (as opposed to the 300 it is currently able to accommodate), but to do so, interventions are also planned that will change the perception of the monument.

In fact, after a conservative restoration of the walls and after the redevelopment of the citadel’s park, the project includes the construction of a metal reticular structure that will have to reintegrate the volumes of the complex that have been destroyed over the centuries, suggesting to observers what the original appearance of the Rocca was, and a mobile roofing structure that will act as a veil and can be operated when needed, so that events can be held even in rainy weather (under normal conditions, the Rocca will remain uncovered). These latest interventions, according to the Municipality of Ravenna, which is among the promoters of the project, will serve to allow accessibility to the upper parts of the Rocca (battlement and top of the towers) that can be visited “amplifying the attractiveness” (so reads a note) of the monument.

The metal structure, the municipality lets us know, will be reversible and will have stylized geometries “derived from the simplification of the ancient elements while preserving their connotative chiaroscuro vibration,” moreover, the communiqu also states, “it will be visually permeable toward the sky and the surrounding greenery and with a soft chromaticism, in continuity with the underlying brick face.”

The Brancaleone Rock as it is today
Rocca Brancaleone as it is today. Ph. Credit

The interventions are divided into four lots: the first is the restoration of the walls, the second the redevelopment of the park, the third the construction of the new structures, and the fourth the landscaping of the external dirt area and the access ramp to the latter. The first two lots are expected to be completed by the end of 2021, the fourth and the first part of the third by the end of 2022, and finally the movable roof in 2023.

The project was developed by a working group composed of the Municipality of Ravenna, the foundation that runs the Ravenna Festival and the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the provinces of Ravenna, Forlì - Cesena and Rimini. The planned investment is 8 million euros, 5 of which were obtained from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism under the “Major Cultural Heritage Projects” plan and 3 made available directly by the City of Ravenna. The municipality has already financed the restoration of a section of the walls with 1 million euros.

“For the municipal administration,” says Ravenna Mayor Michele De Pascale (Pd), “the enhancement of the Rocca is an absolutely strategic operation. It is one of the ’places of the heart’ of a great many Ravenna residents, with enormous potential: as a center of aggregation for citizenship, a tourist attractor and a container of shows of national and international caliber. Many people remember the concerts, classical ballet performances and operas that used to be performed at the Rocca, and it can be said that in the collective imagination of many Ravenna residents, with due proportion, the Rocca is to Ravenna as the Arena is to Verona. That is why we wanted to look far ahead. In the short to medium term, after this administration took office, we allocated one million euros for an initial major restoration of the walls and entrusted the management of the green area and the refreshment point, then we wanted to conceive a project that has theambition to hold together and mutually enhance the different characteristics and aptitudes of this extraordinary heritage, which may also allow us to request the inclusion of the Rocca within the regional project ’Castles of Emilia - Romagna’, so as to allow its inclusion in a new circuit of tourist fruition. Of course, I would like to thank the Superintendency and Ravenna Festival, who are working with great commitment together with us, and Cristina Mazzavillani Muti, who did not fail to be vocal and committed in representing to Minister Franceschini how absolutely important this project was.”

Architect Giorgio Cozzolino says, “When a couple of years ago I signed, together with the mayor, a request to the minister for extraordinary funding for the restoration of the Rocca di Brancaleone, I knew I was acting for a monument that is in the heart of all the people of Ravenna, and not only. The project, developed in an excellent atmosphere of cooperation by the technicians of the Superintendence and the Municipality of Ravenna, seems to me to have been able to capture in an original way precisely the very special value of this place. The application of rigorous criteria of monumental restoration, based on in-depth historical research, provides the cue for an ’ethereal’ re-proposition of the Arce’s original volumes, thus contributing to a greater understanding of the monument in its original guise and allowing for the development of new functions within it. Precisely for these reasons, I am certain that the realization of this project will allow the Brancaleone Fortress to regain its function, even a symbolic one, for a city that for years now has wisely chosen to base its civil and economic development on cultural growth.”

According to Antonio De Rosa, superintendent of the Ravenna Festival, “The recovery and enhancement of the Teatro della Rocca Brancaleone, an extraordinary performance venue strongly desired by Mario Salvagiani and the site of memorable operas, ballets and concerts, will be a formidable innovation available to the Ravenna Festival, which was inaugurated precisely at the Rocca on July 1, 1990, with a concert by the Filarmonica della Scala and the Swedish Radio Choir conducted by Riccardo Muti. The new roofing veil and a 1,500-seat auditorium will make it possible to program music, theater and dance performances in the new Rocca enhanced by the suggestion of the site recovered in its original architectural grandeur.”

However, the project has not been without criticism. In a note, 5-Star Movement Senator Margherita Corrado wrote that “a historical identity testimony such as Ravenna’s Rocca Brancaleone has dignity in itself, not to the extent that it yields to impresarios and/or lends itself to being twisted to pander to the interests of any minister.” She added that she would like to "understand from reading the maps what role the Protection Offices have played and will play, as it is peculiar to me that an ABAP superintendent would put the interests of the Ravenna festival before those of his administration (but in Ravenna the (municipal) Charter of Archaeological Potentials excludes the historic center, so something is wrong at several levels) without being contradicted by his own manager, who also has functions of direction and control over the territorial offices.

Pictured below: a rendering of what Rocca Brancaleone will look like after the interventions.

Ravenna, Rocca Brancaleone could radically change its appearance with metal towers and... a veil
Ravenna, Rocca Brancaleone could radically change its appearance with metal towers and... a veil