Regional Archaeological Museum of Agrigento

Place: Agrigento, Contrada San Nicola, 12

Author: Franco Minissi

Chronology: 1960 | 1962

Itinerary: Treasure hunt

Uso: Museum

Surrounded by an impressive natural scenery, the Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum, named after Pietro Griffo, is located in the Valley of Temples, and occupies the ancient Cistercian abbey of San Nicola, and an extension building realized in the ‘60s.

The extension was designed by the viterbian architect Franco Minissi. It exhibits archaeological artifacts from the Valley of Temples and other excavations carried out in the provinces of Caltanissetta and Agrigento over a wide span of time, about 5,000 years, ranging from prehistory to Roman and Byzantine culture. The entrance courtyard is set on the border between the abbey and the new building. Here, very distant ages seem to come together and establish a quiet dialogue. The wise use of traditional materials establishes a connection and the archaeological artifacts are displayed without being sensationalized.

Minissi’s museum is settled on a single level, following a continuous path interspersed with relax areas, bordered by walls which open towards the surrounding landscape or onto small courtyards, allowing the natural lighting of the exhibition spaces. The external surfaces are plastered with warm colors, to integrate themselves with the colors of the archaeological artifacts. They are also characterized by the presence of expressive iron gargoyles.

The museum is organized into twenty-one rooms, which host permanent exhibition spaces or temporary exhibitions and a library. Minissi, translating the theories of Cesare Brandi into his museography project, prepared a building that can be seen as a tool for displaying the artifacts kept in luminous showcases designed by the architect himself, according to modern museological exhibition criteria.

The heart of the complex is room VI, a double height space, which houses the imposing Telamon from Olympeion, a sculpture recomposed in the Nineteenth century, which used to be part of the huge temple of Zeus in Akragas, dating back to the V century BC.

Text Fabio Balducci
Photos by Alessandro Lanzetta