The Italian Almanac

Uffizi Art Gallery in Florence

Italian News - February 24

The plans for a new exit for the Uffizi Museum in Florence by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki were scrapped yesterday because excavations in the area had revealed the foundations of medieval houses which were levelled when the museum was built in the 1500s.

"In the light of the archaeological findings, Isozaki's project can no longer be carried out," an Italian culture ministry statement said, after a meeting with the architect last week. Roberto Cecchi, head of the ministry's architectural department, said that one of the two big pillars of Isozaki's proposed cubical structure would sit on the ruins of an 11th-century boundary wall.

He added: "The excavations have brought to light interesting medieval ruins that are not very well known in a Renaissance town like Florence, and deserve to be shown."

The architect himself has not lost hope that his award-winning design will one day be built. The project, which won an international competition in 1998, proposes a seven-storey, canopy-like structure. It was put on ice after it brought vehement protests from art lovers and critics. The canopy, made of alternating strips of transparent material to allow the sunlight to filter through, would cover a small square around the corner from the Uffizi's entrance, a portico where tourists wait in long queues to see the gallery's masterpieces by Botticelli and others.