Bì La Fabbrica del gioco e delle arti - Cormano | image courtesy of AF517 | photo ©Ernesta Caviola

Bì – Toy and arts museum

Cormano, Milan (IT)

© Author: Arch. Francesco De Fazio

Bì – La Fabbrica del Gioco e delle Arti (Toy and arts museum), after more than 30 years has closed in Cormano and opened in Florence. In the past, the museum had been inaugurated by Bruno Munari.

The museum displayed one of the most important European collections of vintage toys, which was the result of over fifty years of enthusiastic research. Thousands of pieces were exhibited interchanging one another over time, according to chronological and thematic routes. To protect and keep childhood memories alive, three centuries of history were shown – from 1700 to the 70s of the 1900s. The exhibit also included finds, documents, and testimonies.

The toys, which had to be original and perfectly functioning, covered all the recreational aspects: dolls and soldiers, scale models, board and street games, books, comics and even the first video games.

Museo del giocattolo e del Bambino, where people get amazed

The building Toy and arts museum housing the collection, was the winner of a public competition. The designers wanted to create a space, a public building, aiming to turn the famous old factory into a location where the joy of fun, learning and playing take place. Therefore, a place for amazement.

“Apparently, the big animal, that mysteriously arrived from Rousseau and Salgari’s world to the outskirts of Milan, belongs to the big dreams of childhood. Just like in the plot and the pictures of “Where the Wild Things Are” (Spike Jonze, USA 2009, a movie based on M. Sendak’s book), escaping from the family and meeting a world of more or less good monsters becomes a journey of interior knowledge, and not educational or pedagogical.
~ Alfonso Femia / Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

The reclamation of an existing building, the zebra zulu

What was just a cotton mill at the beginning of 1900s has now an additional part of the building that covers the new square outside. Spaces such as the museum of toy (museo del giocattolo), the library for kids and a theatre room were inside of a site reinforced by layers that now supports the new building.

The glass windows let the light in and the plants are mainly on the horizontal covering. The building preserves the industrial character, and, at the same time, it perfectly fits with the new skyline of the museum, where there are also the oculus skylights which capture the light.

Paws directed to the square

Outside, the building is connected to the neighbourhood of Cormano. The museum stands on big pillars that with the coverage create a covered square, a space linked to the pedestrian areas and the street underneath.

The entry staircases connect different heights, continuously showing the inside and the outside. In the same way as children find a space to play anywhere, even in the most insignificant place, the building makes the urban space its own. The big game of the goose on the paved area on the side of the building is the final touch.

Project info and credits:

Comune di Cormano

architectural design
Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA (now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia)
with Area Progetti

Alfonso Femia, Gianluca Peluffo, Domenico Racca, Simonetta Cenci

exhibit and installation design
Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA (now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia), David Palterer

structural engineering
Buonomo Veglia srl

services engineering
Ferro & Cerioni

technical direction
Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA (now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia)

project responsible
Ilaria Sisto

design team
Lorenza Barabino, Luca Bonsignorio, Cristina Leboffe, Sara Massa, Anna Patti, Valeria Parodi, Carola Picasso, Laura Vallino, Sara Traverso

requalification of a former industrial building: Bi Toys and Arts Factory – toy and child museum, children’s centre, library, theatre, café

area: 2.000 m2
total volume: 10.350 m3
out of ground volume lenght: 89 m
out of ground height: 14,5 m
hall-cafeteria: 150 m2
theatre: 360 m2
library: 200 m2
museum: 400 m2
offices: 200 m2
theatre workshops: 200 m2