Rifugio Digitale: bomb shelter turned into an arts space

Rifugio Digitale: bomb shelter turned into an arts space

The disused WW2 air raid shelter in San Niccolò has recently been repurposed as a digital art exhibition space, Rifugio Digitale.

Thu 23 Jun 2022 10:10 AM

Walking down via della Fornace in the San Niccolò area, a turn in from the street sees you enter a semicircular entrance that leads down into a tunnel of wavering lights and flickering movement, leaving you mesmerized and somewhat disoriented. Losing sense of night and day as you access the former bomb shelter, your eyes adjust to the tunnel that has become an attractive exhibition space for the promotion of digital art, where architecture, design, photography, cinema, literature and all arts meet. The 165 square metre versatile space hosts exhibitions, events, presentations, talks and more, creating an intriguing cultural hub unlike any other in the city. 

Rifugio Digitale. Ph. Marco Badiani
Rifugio Digitale. Ph. Marco Badiani

Launched on April 13, the repurposed air raid shelter, known as Rifugio Digitale, is an architectural project designed by Archea Associati, with events programming curated by Forma Edizioni. It was inaugurated with Fabrizio Plessi’s site-specific video art titled Oro (Gold), presented in collaboration with Tornabuoni Arte. 

Sixteen screens line the two sides of the 33-metre-long tunnel, displaying a glittering golden mosaic that creates an almost maritime feel in the underground setting. For Plessi, the golden flow represents the collective imagination that unites us all, traversing different languages and experiences, past and future. Commenting on the display of the artwork in the innovative space, Plessi details, “Rifugio Digitale is an innovative cultural crossroads that, precisely in a city like Florence, finds the perfect stimulus for comparison and display, juxtaposing its art on all that has come before. The spirit of communication is the true and profound philosophy of this extraordinary place… Everything moves and passes through the funnel of time in an endless replay of history and life.”

The exhibition space was built in the foundations of a tunnel used in 1943 as a shelter during World War II air raids. Known as the “Forge Refuge”, a place offering safety, it’s now been reborn as a place where technology meets art in the “Digital Refuge” that offers a contemporary space to express creativity through the modern languages of technology.

“Everything moves and passes through the funnel of time in an endless replay of history and life.”

Rifugio Digitale details

Open from 3-7pm, Monday to Friday, and Saturday and Sunday by appointment. See the current and upcoming programme on their website.

Rifugio Digitale. Ph. Marco Badiani

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