High art: Maurice Nio future-proofs the Pecci Centre

The extension's tower was designed as a cross between a ‘horn and a feeler’
Prato's Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art has been expanded by architect Maurice Nio. The extension's tower was designed as a cross between a ‘horn and a feeler’ which attracts visitors and 'senses' creativity. Photography: Mario Gianni
(Image credit: Mario Gianni)

Rotterdam-based studio NIO Architecten has doubled the exhibition space at the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art in Prato, Italy with a futuristic new wing. The semi-circular extension of bronze-coloured metal has been built onto the existing architecture by Italo Gamberini.

The Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art is one of the only galleries in Italy dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, holding works by the likes of Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt and Mario Merz. It opened in 1988, when entrepreneur Enrico Pecci gifted it to the city of Prato in memory of his son Luigi. Located just outside the city in an urban area known for textile manufacturing, the Pecci Centre’s new arm envelops the original building in a broad welcoming hug, swooping in to bring some architectural excitement to an area of bland industry.

Interior staircase

Visitors will enter the Pecci Centre through a transparent lower level, where they will find visitor's services, a bookshop and restaurant

(Image credit: TBC)

A surreal antennae pokes up into the sky from the metal cladding like a lightening bolt, which the architects included as a sculptural feature. Maurice Nio named the project 'Sensing the Waves', after his intention for the building to be a receptor for creativity.

As well as initiating a dynamic new personality for the Pecci Centre, the design actively improves the visitor experience. It made the entrance more welcoming by moving it closer to the main road and created a bookshop and restaurant within the transparent lower level. On the upper level, Nio constructed a circular route through the exhibition space, which was previously laden with dead ends.

With the added resources of an archive, specialist library, open-air theatre, cinema, performance space and spaces for workshops, the Pecci Centre is now a future-proofed carrier for new generations of art-lovers.

New entrance on main road

The architects found the original entrance tricky and inaccessible, so they shifted it to the opposite side of the site, opening it up to the main road

(Image credit: TBC)

new wing is a dynamic urban icon

The new wing is a dynamic urban icon for an industrial area just outside the city

(Image credit: TBC)

circular route exhibition space

The exhibition space on the first floor provides a circular route for visitors to travel through, experiencing contemporary art in an endless curve

(Image credit: TBC)

Pecci Centre's strategically placed openings

A view of the Florence skyline can be seen from the Pecci Centre's strategically placed openings

(Image credit: TBC)


For more information, visit the NIO Architecten website


Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art
Viale della Repubblica, 277
59100 Prato

Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.