The Palazzo dell’Arte, home of Milano’s Triennale, is situated among the greenery of the southwest part of the Parco Sempione. After the Sforzesco Castle, the civic Arena and the Arch of Peace, this building completed the circle of monuments around the old parade grounds, proclaimed a public park towards the close of the nineteenth century.
Inaugurated in Monza in 1923 with a two-year cadence, the Esposizione Internazionale delle Arti Decorative e Industriali e dell'Architettura Moderna (International Exhibition of Decorative and Industrial Arts and Modern Architecture) became triennial in 1930 and three years later moved to its new home in Milano to celebrate its fifth edition.
Construction of Milano’s Palazzo dell’Arte was made possible by the Foundation created with the generous bequest of Antonio Bernocchi, Senator and industrialist of Milano who died in 1930, whose name still today stands proudly over the main entrance.
Design of the building was entrusted to architect Giovanni Muzio, and the City of Milano made the area in the park available. Construction was started in the fall of 1931 and the work was completed in the spring of 1933.
The building’s layout shows a rectangular base with one of the two short sides extending in a semicircle that encloses the Teatro dell’Arte. From the central rectangle also projects the entrance on Viale Alemagna and the two porticoed wings on the opposite side overlooking the park. The exterior has red brick tile facing with pink Baveno granite highlighting the most monumental parts.
The spacious interiors are developed on three main levels, and the large spaces and high ceilings offer the maximum flexibility in designing the exhibition itineraries and other installations.
During the eleven editions of the Triennale held between 1933 and 1973, the show enriched the surrounding area with pavilions and other works, some of which can still be seen in the park. Among these is Gio Ponti’s 1933 Torre Branca (Branca Tower), the 1954 Bar Bianco (White Coffee Bar) and Padiglione di soggiorno (Living Pavilion), now repurposed as a library, Giorgio de Chirico’s Mysterious Baths fountain and Arman’s Accumulazione Musicale Seduta, 1973. In the 1970s and 1980s, the show lost interest and the building was closed down for several years.
In 1993 with the creation of the Fondazione Triennale, the Palazzo dell’Arte resumed its function as an exhibition centre and cultural hub of the city with shows and other initiatives relating to architecture, graphics, and design.
The Triennale Design Museum, opened in 2007, presents to the public the Triennale Permanent Collection, as well as temporary exhibitions. The museum has a library, a DesignCafé furnished with designer chairs, and another coffee bar in the garden, open during the summer.
Over the decades since its construction, the Palazzo dell’Arte has hosted, in its interior spaces and in the adjoining areas, activities that have strayed from the original purpose. In the lower ground-floor level on the park side, since the 1960s there has been a night club operating under different names: Trianon, Piper, and Old Fashion.
Triennale Design Museum: the first design museum to showcase Italian design through a series of presentations that are changed every year, each time varying the key themes, the technical layout and scenery.
The Palazzo also hosts the Teatro dell’Arte (Theatre of Art) that has always opened its curtains to important artistic companies. In the 1950s, many performances were recorded here and later broadcast on Radio Milano.