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The new museum of carbon fibre

Celebrating a defining material of modernity.

2nd September 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Piacenza, Italy

Transport/​Aerospace, Industrial

MAE, the Italian manufacturer of processing machines for monomers and polymers, is constructing the MAE Museum dedicated to carbon fibre at its headquarters in Piacenza, an hour’s drive from Milan.

Designed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and Italo Rota, the museum is being built largely from carbon fibre, both new and recycled, pursuing a circular approach to design.

The exhibition path employs robotics to guide visitors through the world’s largest archive of acrylic fibre technologies, documenting scientific advancements in the development of carbon fibre, as well as parallel changes in society and fashion.

A series of mechanical arms move along the walls to extract photos, technical dossiers, and campaigns from the brand’s 50-year history, and bring these items to a raised central platform, where visitors can sit and browse through them. Visitors then move through a long corridor where they can observe the process by which acrylic fibre is transformed into carbon fibre. The second section of the museum is dedicated to the use of fibre in contemporary industry. Within a black room enriched by an immersive installation, a set of interactive artefacts explores the experimental applications of carbon fibre and shows the most innovative prototypes made with it by car-making and aerospace companies.


“From high-performance bikes to the Lamborghini Aventador car, carbon fibre is driving innovation in multiple sectors,” said Carlo Ratti, founding partner at CRA and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “The MAE museum celebrates a defining material of modernity, by focusing on its new circular frontier and envisioning new applications for its use. We are delighted to work with MAE, a company whose history and know-how pioneered the transition from the original use of acrylic fibre in clothing to today’s use of carbon fibre in industries as varied as aerospace and automotive.”

In early July 2021, MAE announced a collaboration with Leonardo, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, to build a €17 million pilot plant at the same location, to produce new materials for use in the fields of aerospace, defence and security.

The MAE Museum project builds on recent CRA research in both the design of cultural spaces and the concept of circularity in architecture. The Italian Pavilion at Expo Dubai 2020, designed by CRA and Italo Rota along with F&M Ingegneria and Matteo Gatto, focuses specifically on the use of experimental construction materials, and will open in early October 2021.

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