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Italian Government Cancels Isozaki's Uffizi Addition

In late February the Italian Minister of Culture, Giuliano Urbani, announced the cancellation of the commission to design a new exit-way for the Uffizi Galleries, which had been won in 1998 by Arata Isozaki. Isozaki’s proposal for a steel and stone porch that would have filled the small Piazza del Grano to the east of the galleries and created a striking contrast with the 16th century building originally designed by Giorgio Vasari has been a magnet for controversy ever since its unveiling. The cancellation was preceded with a by turns childish and outrageous debate over the importance of tradition and Florence’s ability to commission new and important buildings. "The majority of Florentines are fed by an idealized vision of their city that does not correspond to reality," comments Marco Brizzi, a professor of media and architecture at California State University in Florence. "They disregard the exigencies of modern life."


Last year the Florence Superintendent of Culture began a dig in the area of Piazza del Grano and unearthed evidence of medieval structures predating the museum. Despite the fact that the archaeologist on the scene, professor Riccardo Francovich, opined that the discoveries shouldn’t create an obstacle to the project, Urbani declared that they were "exceptionally relevant" in his decision to cancel it. Isozaki has until June to amend his project so that it can accommodate and incorporate the archaeological findings. But local defenders are skeptical that this will have any effect. "I think it is clear that the interruption of the work was provoked by political reasons," says Brizzi.

Paul Bennett