Perugia restoration

Since 1873, Perugia was lit by gas lamps with 18 large cast iron posts made in Rome. Monumental posts, with an intricately decorated brackets system, crowned with 4 large spheres that the locals criticised because of their minute size, referring to them as ‘children’s heads on the body of Hercules’.

In the 1960s, the remaining lamp posts were decommissioned, to make way for a more ‘modern’ style of lighting. Luckily, one of these posts was saved by Mario Spagnoli, who reused it in the ‘Città della Domenica’ theme park, inaugurated in 1963 – the first private theme park in Italy. It remained there for decades, until a few months ago it was donated back to the Municipality of Perugia by Mariella Spagnoli, daughter of Mario Spagnoli and niece of Luisa Spagnoli, the owners of the famous Designer Label that bears her name, so that it could once again be positioned in piazza Fortebracci.

The project to recover the historical posts started in 2011 with the lighting in Piazza Italia, where Neri refurbished two dentical posts positioned opposite the building housing the Provincial Authorities.

Every single piece was sandblasted in order to remove the thick layer of paint that covered it, and to bring the cast iron to its original condition.

It was then discovered that the post had been welded in numerous points and in the column – evidently the result of a fall that had broken it into numerous pieces.

The single elements, cleaned in this way, were immediately protected with a primer coat to stop it from rusting – which happens very quickly in antique elements. The more delicate part then began: assembling the various elements. This entails re-applying the single decorations on the base and column, in addition to assembling the brackets group.

Welds on the brackets – carried out some time in the past – created serious difficulty in preparing the assembly, since the welded parts were not properly aligned and this meant that the brackets were not in the right position compared to the post and lamps.

In order to improve the stability of the post, the parts of the column that had been broken were welded once again, but also reinforced with a steel tube running inside. This internal element also proved essential to the alignment of the post, obtained by means of a series of steel inserts, which determined the position of the column, preventing any subsequent movements. Furthermore, a steel core was created for the entire height of the post, which performs the very important function of providing inner structural support, making the entire structure safe.

The subsequent application of the long leaves that decorate the post made it possible to hide the welds from view, thus obtaining a good result in terms of aesthetics.

Protection of all surfaces was obtained with a zinc-galvanising protective layer, applied by immersion, followed by an epoxy primer and, finally, a coat of green paint as agreed with the Superintendency.

The original spheres, made with more perishable materialscompared to cast iron – like plastic, lead and iron – could not berestored, so they were reproduced with the necessary technical updates, in compliance with standard EN60598.

The metal parts were painted by immersion and then finishedwith two coats of green epoxy enamel, while the shaft waspainted a copper colour.

Thanks to the original post, it was possible to reproducean identical copy, essential to the completion of the project.The single elements of the post – base, column, capital, top,brackets and leaves – were prepared in order to cast newcopies. Specifically, besides finishing each surface perfectly,each piece was also equipped with the so-called wooden‘patterns’ necessary to make the earthen mould and for fusion.

In order to operate with similar models, it is necessary to have a real master craftsman, capable of obtaining the perfect shape. Each element is a unique piece which, due to the delicate nature of the operations, requires study and a long time to create.

Each element was then cleaned and finished in every detail in order to obtain an aesthetically high-quality product. The two posts, assembled, now embellish the Piazza.