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The museum opened in 1995 following the restoration project by Peter Chermayeff and Umberto Floris that transformed the town’s washhouse, much loved by Nivola as a symbolic remnant of Orani’s community life. It enjoys a panoramic position on the hill facing the town and includes in its precincts the Su Càntaru fountain.

In 2004, in the garden below the washhouse, Chermayeff designed an independent pavilion, intended initially for the collection of sandcast reliefs. In 2012, after an international competition won by Gianfranco Crisci, a third project greatly expanded the museum’s gallery space in a partly underground structure placed at the end of the entry plaza.

The interior spaces of the new addition, re-designed by Alessandro Floris in 2015, host the permanent collection. The installation is conceived to allow for a non discriminating access to people with reduced mobility, and at the same time to provide a more complete and effective presentation of Nivola’s work.

The three exhibition spaces have distinct architectural features: while the wash house reuses an existing building with a basilica-like plan covered by a pitched roof and served with large windows, the lower pavilion is made of crisp stone elevations and covered by a variation of an industrial monitor roof. Its interior is divided into three naves by arches that evoke the arched windows of the washhouse. Crisci’s addition fits discreetly into the terracing of the hillside and through occasional oblique cuts allows clerestory light to filter into what is essentially a single room divided by a few freestanding walls.

The enlarged entry courtyard is traversed by a thin channel of water that spills out of the historic fountain. The new terrace offers a magnificent view of Orani and hosts some of Nivola’s sculptures.

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