During the recent summer edition of Pitti Uomo, perhaps the most daring fashion statement of all was made by the Baptistery. Dressed from floor to dome in 2,000 square meters of ‘scarves’ designed by Florence’s own Emilio Pucci, the scaffolding surrounding the structure was aptly named ‘Monumental Pucci.’
Pictured on the apse of the building was the original 1957 ‘Battistero’ scarf that inspired the entire project. The scarf is an interpretation of an aerial view of piazza del Duomo realized in lemon yellow, fuchsia, orange and Pucci pink. Florentines and tourists alike could not help but take notice of this massive kaleidoscope of colors dominating the bustling piazza, offering comments such as these:
‘I like it, but I prefer the reality of the Baptistery’s façade to the modernity of the Pucci designs.’ (Pia Betve, France)
‘It’s very modern.’ (Henry Smith, Boston)
‘The colors, even though bright are somehow reminiscent of the color scheme of Florence in its original brilliance.’ (Abby Smith, Boston)
‘I suppose it’s better than looking at scaffolding.’ (Joanne Kardana, England)
‘I don’t like it, it’s distracting. It takes away from the experience of the seeing the piazza del Duomo for the first time.’ (Sarah Lasenby, England)
‘The colors are sharp. It’s the classic contradiction between contemporary and Renaissance art.’ (Charlene Kwok, Shenzhen, China)
‘I prefer the designs to a photo of the Baptistery.’ (Roberto, Italy)
‘Firenze in cartoon.’ (Filippo Qiao, Italy)
‘I myself had a very strong reaction when I saw the current scaffolding on the Baptistery! It’s brilliant marketing for Pucci, and quite daring for the city of Florence to allow something so “modern” and fashion-related to don one of the city’s most important buildings … I assume they tried to match the colors of the Duomo.’ (Elia Nichols, United States)
‘I am quite impressed and relieved that finally Florence has added a creative twist in the center. It is nice to see some contemporary work emerging onto the historic streets.’ (Alex Salazar, United States)
‘It’s cool. It reminds me of Pop Art. I like it because it adds a modern element to the antique atmosphere of Florence.’ (Juan Lopez, Colombia)
Following the conclusion of the Pitti Uomo events, the Pucci designs covering the Baptistery were swiftly replaced with the more typical scaffolding covers, featuring a photographic depiction of the original structure. These are the default during architectural restorations in Florence as they attempt to minimize the visual distraction of the scaffolding. They are especially useful in giving those visiting the city an idea of what the building usually looks like, as is currently the case in various locations around Florence, including the Baptistery, storefronts in piazza del Duomo and the Museo degli Innocenti (currently undergoing renovation and due to reopen in 2015) in piazza SS. Annunziata.
However, like Pitti Uomo, many entities are realizing the art and marketing potential provided by its massive visibility. For instance, U.S. sneaker company Converse has harnessed the power of the scaffolding cover power for advertising on the tower of the Zecca Vecchia in piazza del Piave, where the firm has installed a massive campaign for its shoes. In a city where billboards do not really exist, the modern masters of both art and business have found a place to exhibit their presence, in a tasteful manner, of course.
‘Monumental Pucci’ made a bold statement during Pitti Uomo, posing the question of whether such artistic installations could eclipse the use of the traditional scaffolding covers. Given the temporary nature of the scaffolding, it would provide an opportunity for Florence to showcase a few of its modern feats in art and design. Can the city of the Renaissance handle a hint of the contemporary among hundreds of years of tradition? Florence seems to think so.