Asilo Ciani is a building built between 1890 and 1892 to house the headquarters of the charity nursery institute, opened thanks to Filippo Ciani in 1844 in a building in Contrada di Cioccaro. The first nursery in Ticino was modeled on the experiences already underway in childhood institutes in Lombardy and in educational realities in industrial contexts in the United Kingdom: the aim of the nursery was in fact to take care of the education and hygienic conditions of the children of families in difficulty; in the words of Filippo Ciani “an institution whose design is to gather, look after, educate and feed poor children from the age of two to six who either due to excess of poverty, or due to lack of health, or lack of time parents are left to themselves and deprived of any education” (letter dated 09.04.1843 to the Municipality of Lugano), accepted by the public education commission of Canton Ticino as an “experiment and model” (answer dated 27.05.1943).
The nursery proved to be an institution that soon manifested its effectiveness: inaugurated on 17 December 1844 with 22 children, every year the nursery experienced progressive increases in enrolments, arriving in 1892 to count 155 children. In the same year, on the initiative of Antonio Gabrini – then president of the Filippo Ciani Foundation set up following Filippo Ciani’s death – the headquarters of the nursery was moved to a new building, more salubrious, spacious, airy and bright, purpose-built thanks to contributions from Lugano benefactors. The new kindergarten was located a short distance from Villa Ciani, on what was then via Campo Marzio, today viale Carlo Cattaneo. The work of architects Giuseppe Stabile and Giuseppe Fumagalli, it had a U-shaped plan and was surrounded by a large garden used for recreation. Until 1927 managed by the Filippo Ciani Foundation thanks to bequests and donations from Lugano families, in 1928 the nursery was the protagonist of an agreement between the Foundation and the Municipality of Lugano; the latter in fact assumed management, maintenance, organisation and didactic direction in his charge, leaving the ownership of the building and the land to the Foundation. Renovated in 1928 and enlarged in 1944, a fourth wall was added to the nursery to form a patio, closing the opening towards the rear garden. The structure continued to house one of the city’s nurseries until 2002. In 2004 the building was purchased by the City, with the intention of modernising it and using it as a structure for events outside the Palazzo dei Congressi; the building was inaugurated as a congress venue in 2005. Between 2005 and 2011 the building was managed by Lugano Turismo, while since 2012 it has been under the management of Divisione eventi e congressi of the City of Lugano.
In March 2023, Asilo Ciani reopens its doors after a conservative restoration carried out between 2020 and 2022. The restoration was guided by the intent on the one hand to enhance the identity characteristics of the historic structure, on the other to make the spaces suitable for modern needs of the organization of events, with particular attention to sustainability. The works involved all the spaces on the ground floor, with important interventions on acoustics, systems engineering, heating and air conditioning.
The structure retains its original appearance, thanks to the renovation of the facades and the maintenance of its internal volumes: a large central patio surmounted by a skylight, and seven independent rooms connected by a corridor. Like the patio, each room has been equipped with modern audio and video systems, operational and ambient lighting, and new flooring in aged oak, a recycled material that has been treated and reused; the corridor and the service rooms – completely redone – have a gray stone floor. Finally, all the rooms on the ground floor benefit from new heat pump heating and cooling systems, powered by sustainable energy (industrial water supplied by AIL).
A restoration that improves the accessibility of the building for both the public and event organisers.
Open doors at Asilo Ciani on 18.03 from 11:00 to 17:00; the exhibition curated by the Divisione cultura can be visited until 23.04.
More information: luganoconventions.com
To find out more: “I Ciani. Mito e realtà”, Edizioni Città di Lugano, archivio storico 2017.