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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.

A courtyard at the the Palazzo dei Diamanti that Roman architects Labics renovated with glazed modern archways.
A Renaissance door frame looks ahed to a modern doorway in a room painted with orangey-red.

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 exterior of the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, featuring a facade covered in marble blocks carved into diamond shapes.

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.

An art gallery room with red walls featuring a sculpture and three paintings. One is mounted to the wall from its side.

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.

The double-height, all-white bookstore that Roman architects Labics designed at the Palazzo dei Diamanti.

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.

A row of brass portals in the gallery at Ferrara's Palazzo dei Diamanti, renovated by Labics.

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.

A wood-framed passageway that Roman architects Labics introduced in their renovation of the Palazzo dei Diamanti.

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.

Trees planted in clean geometric rows, with a new glazed black tunnel-like passageway in the background.

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.

An artwork hung on a red wall in a gallery, with a doorway to the right that looks ahead to a row of bronze portals in the Palazzo dei Diamanti renovated by Roman architects Labics.

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.

In Italy, A Renaissance Gem Turned Contemporary Treasure

Ferrara’s Diamond Palace reopens after a series of strategic interventions by Labics that successfully fuse the 16th and 21st centuries.

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