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Renzo Piano's MUSE Museum

Renzo Piano’s MUSE (MUseo delle ScienzE or Natural Science Museum) in Trento, Italy integrates sustainability on the macro and the micro level. It’s not only a sustainable building, but a sustainable urban intervention designed to have an impact on the entire city. On an urban scale, it revitalizes a former brownfield site that was once home to a Michelin tire manufacturing plant. It connects this riverfront area of Trento, adjacent to the Adige River, to the city's center and creates a public attraction for visitors while drawing activity to a formerly neglected part of town. And on the building scale, it reduces energy use by taking advantage of photovoltaic panels, geothermal energy and excellent passive cooling design. It also harvests rainwater to irrigate its indoor garden and uses locally-sourced and renewable materials throughout.

The museum is part of a larger redevelopment effort in this part of Trento which will include housing, leisure, retail and office space, all to be designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The former industrial site is bound on the north by the historic Palazzo delle Albere, on the south by Monte Baldo Road and on the east by the railway. The Michelin tire factory that was once there cut the town off from the river completely. And once the factory was closed, the site remained neglected for a long time. This redevelopment effort aims to reconnect the town with the Adige River-front area, and also brings urban vibrancy back to this long-neglected vacant land.

The MUSE building itself incorporates several innovative sustainability strategies, starting first with energy efficiency. Photovoltaic panels on the roof, an energy-efficient tri-generation energy plant along with a geothermal system will supply much of the building’s energy requirements. Green stone on the skin of the building is designed to absorb solar thermal energy, and natural ventilation is factored in to reduce dependence on mechanical cooling. Renewable materials such as bamboo will be donning the exhibition floors, while the rest of the building will boast a host of locally-sourced materials. Rainwater harvested from the roof is expected to reduce the building’s use of potable water by 50%.

Even the museum exhibits will have a sustainable mission, as they will celebrate the natural sciences and ecosystems surrounding Trento. According to the MUSE’s website, the exhibits will “combine the traditional interest in natural history and research, common to all natural science institutions, with specific attention to ethical and social topics and to current issues, such as the environment and sustainable development.”

Photos © RPBW – Stefano Goldberg, Pubifoto

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