CRA and Italo Rota work with leading manufacturing company MAE to design a museum dedicated to carbon fiber, one of today’s most innovative manufacturing materials. Built using recycled fiber, it showcases the material’s ecological potential. The museum collection illustrates how synthetic fibers are used in a variety of industries, from automotive to fashion to cycling, and employs robotics to open up MAE’s vast archives for the first time.
The museum itself will be built largely out of carbon fiber, both new and recycled, pursuing a circular approach to design. The exhibition path will employ robotics to guide visitors through the world’s largest archive of acrylic fiber technologies, documenting scientific advancements in the development of carbon fiber, as well as parallel changes in society and fashion. Developed for leading machinery manufacturing company MAE, the new museum is located in Piacenza, Italy.
Carbon fiber is a lightweight, highly resistant material used in everything from aerospace to the automotive industry to bicycle manufacturing. It is generated from acrylic fiber, similar to the one commonly used in clothing, and then transformed into carbon fiber through a complex chemical process, where the machines of MAE are world’s leaders. Similarly, the MAE museum’s exhibition path is conceived as a twofold journey from the past into the future: from the heyday of synthetic fibers in postwar European clothing, to the latest breakthroughs in chemical and engineering research.
While the museum is located inside a renovated warehouse, most interior components are built with acrylic and carbon fiber, including the entrance doors which open like a curtain. “From high-performance bikes to the Lamborghini Aventador car, carbon fiber is driving innovation in multiple sectors. The MAE museum celebrates a defining material of modernity, by focusing on its new circular frontier and envisioning new applications for its use,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner at CRA and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In the first section of the museum, visitors encounter a robotic archive warehouse, lit with dazzling white light and filled with MAE’s historical documents. A series of mechanical arms move along the walls to extract photos, technical dossiers, and campaigns from the brand’s 50-year history, and bring these items to a raised central platform, where visitors can sit and browse through them. After that, visitors go through a long corridor where they can observe the process by which acrylic fiber is transformed into carbon fiber.
This is followed by the second section of the museum dedicated to the use of fiber in contemporary industry. Within a black room enriched by an immersive installation, a set of interactive artifacts explores the experimental applications of carbon fiber and shows the most innovative prototypes made with it by car-making and aerospace companies. The MAE Museum is located at MAE’s Italian headquarters at a one-hour drive from Milan, catering to different audiences including the general public, schools and chemistry and engineering specialists. Source by CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati.
- Location: Piacenza, Italy
- Architect: CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati
- Creative lead and museum curatorship: Italo Rota
- CRA team: Carlo Ratti, Andrea Cassi (Partner in Charge), Chiara Morandini (Project Manager), Iratxe de Dios
- Italo Rota Building Office: Italo Rota, Francesca Grassi
- Year: 2021
- Images: Courtesy of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati