A 16th-century Italian palace has entered a new cultural renaissance. In February, Roman architecture firm Labics completed a renovation of the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, Italy, preserving the palace-turned-art-gallery’s historic character while also refreshing its ground-floor exhibition spaces to establish a more consistent, contemporary identity.
Original construction on Palazzo dei Diamanti began in 1493, shortly after Duke Ercole I d’Este had demolished Ferrara’s medieval walls to enlarge the city. The project was originally a commission by the duke’s brother, who enlisted court architect Biagio Rossetti to design him a family home that would sit at the heart of the newly expanded city.
The so-called “Diamond Palace” quickly became a local landmark thanks to its lavish exterior, which is covered in 8,500 white marble blocks carved into diamond shapes. Apart from reflecting an Este family emblem, these ashlars are also angled to maximize the amount of sunlight that reflects off the facade.
And yet after this latest visual refresh, it may just be the building’s interiors that steal the show. In recent centuries, the palace has been home to a rotating cast of museums. The 2023 iteration of Palazzo dei Diamanti continues to host two institutions: the National Picture Gallery of Ferrara (which occupies the second storey and was largely untouched by this reno) and the Ferrara Art Foundation, which uses the ground floor as its own venue for temporary art exhibitions.
Focusing on improving circulation and presenting a more cohesive visitor experience in these galleries, Labics worked to resolve a number of vestiges left behind by the building’s past occupants. For instance, spaces that had previously been home to the Museum of the Risorgimento have now been repurposed to serve as a coffee shop, a bookstore, and several open-air courtyards.
Other interventions worked to improve the quality of the two ground-floor exhibition spaces. In both of these galleries, Labics stashed existing mechanical equipment out of sight and introduced burnished brass portals that help to structure a more sequential flow. The Rossetti Wing also benefits from new Venetian terrazzo floors.
Another significant update is the introduction of a partially glazed wooden walkway that serves to link together the palace’s two wings as well as the main courtyard.
Outdoors, linear rows of trees and other new landscaping — conceived by Labics in collaboration with landscape designer Stefano Olivari — restores the strong sense of geometry that had defined the space historically.
To showcase the end results of the Palazzo dei Diamanti’s dramatic reimagining, the museum is hosting an exhibition of works by two celebrated Italian masters — Ercole de’ Roberti and Lorenzo Costa — that is on display through June 19th.
Ferrara’s Diamond Palace reopens after a series of strategic interventions by Labics that successfully fuse the 16th and 21st centuries.