Ancona, Piazza Cavour

Perched on a promontory extending out into the Adriatic sea, Ancona is shaped like a bent elbow. The form of the land protects the largest natural seaport in the central Adriatic. Greeks from Syracuse, who founded the new city in 387 BC, named it after the shape of the promontory: ‘ankòn’, which means ‘elbow’ in Greek. Ancona is also known as the ‘Doric city’ to recall its Greek roots. Piazza Cavour was designed in 1862, right after Italy was united, and inaugurated in 1868. A statue of the great statesman stands in its centre. The square covers an area of three hectares, and was designed according to a project based on a principle of unity aimed at achieving the eastward expansion of the city. The city had gained new importance as a symbol of the Kingdom of Italy. A few years after the First World War, street furnishings in Art Nouveau style were placed in the square: cast iron bins and benches made by the Cristofani foundry in Lucca. Four of these have a truly unusual inscription on the backrest: the ‘Bollettino della Vittoria’ or rather, the final address to the army and the Nation (symbol of the Italian victory) issued by General Diaz, the Chief of Staff, delivered in November 1918. A photograph dated 1929, taken by the photographer Corsini during a Fascist demonstration and kept in the archives of the Ancona Municipal Library, clearly shows the bench with the long inscription cast on the backrest.

The renovation project of Piazza Cavour included saving the four surviving original benches, and reproducing 66 copies to furnish the large square, in addition to a lighting project with lamp posts in steel and cast iron. The first phase of the work consisted in cleaning all of the surfaces of the benches from rust, with the aim of identifying critical areas to manage during later phases of restoration. The cleaning phase allowed us to identify the best preserved bench, which we then used as a base model for the reproductions. We worked on this bench to obtain a perfectly smooth surface and eliminate imperfections that would otherwise have been replicated in the new castings. The bench prepared in this way was positioned in a block of perforated wood with the reproduction of its shape and with the upper part protruding halfway up the line of the wood. The median line was obtained also for the internal parts of the bench by perforating blocks of wood corresponding to the empty spaces created by the pattern of branches. All of the spaces between the wood and the original cast iron model were then sealed with putty. The part in cast iron that was outside the wood corresponds to the exact half of the bench. Then, we used hand tools to make a wooden model that is perfectly specular to the type of bench that we were working with. This model was then placed over the prepared bench and we poured resin into it to reproduce the original form and create the desired mould. This process was repeated to obtain a model of the second part. This is how we created the two models necessary for reproducing the bench. In each of the two moulds, we poured a resin that reproduced half of the bench. The height of the original bench, declared insufficient by designers, was modified to improve ergonomics. Here at the Neri factory, we adapted the resin model to lengthen the base. With the new longer mould, we replicated all of the operations described above, to create two models for casting the bench in its new longer version. The bench models were then positioned on the plate for the foundry. On the plate, various wood plugs were also fitted to correspond to the pours where the cast iron flows to reach all of the surfaces. The benches made in the foundry then entered the painting phase of the production cycle. The seats of the original benches were in iron instead of wood, and we reproduced the new benches in the same way. Piazza Cavour is now a completely renovated space and a nice place to rest, both along the internal paths and in the large central space around the monument.

The plan for Piazza Cavour also included the lighting, with the systems Maia and ‘Light 20’ integrated with four central posts from the 1930s which were previously restored by Neri.