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Refurbishment of the Sugar Refinery Palace into the City Museum of Rijeka are proceeding as planned

Works on the Sugar Refinery Palace, which will upon completion of the reconstruction and furnishing, become a permanent exhibition of the City Museum of Rijeka covering the surface of 1,200 m2, are proceeding as planned.

With the renovation of the building, Rijeka will receive a representative cultural space that will leave visitors in awe of the history the city, as well as the lavish interior teeming with lush decorations, wall and ceiling paintings with mythological motifs, historical scenes from Antiquity and panoramas of imaginary cities.

Works on the refurbishment of the Palace commenced last spring and have been extensively executed in the interior of the building, while visible regeneration interventions on the principal facade facing Zvonimir Street also started recently.

The Sugar Refinery Palace was visited today by the Mayor of Rijeka Vojko Obersnel, his deputy Nikola Ivaniš, Chairman of the Rijeka City Council Andrej Poropat, Head of the Rijeka Department of Culture Ivan Šarar, author of the prospective City Museum of Rijeka exhibitions Nikolina Jelavić Mitrović, Director of the City Museum of Rijeka Ervin Dubrović, Head of the Rijeka Department for Conservation Biserka Dumbović Bilušić and the construction foreman Vladimir Mihalac.

During his visit, Mayor Obersnel pointed out that a variety of work has been conducted over the years, ranging from research and restoration to reconstruction.
– In the last few months, extensive refurbishment works have been undertaken that will ultimately result in the new City Museum of Rijeka. The building itself is immensely significant, since it is deemed one of the most beautiful late 18th century Baroque palaces in Croatia by experts and, as such, is an important part of Rijeka’s history, industrial history in particular,  said Mayor Obersnel, expressing his satisfaction with the dynamic progress of the works.

While discussing the overall refurbishment of the Benčić complex, the Head of the Department of Culture Šarar pointed out that the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, an integral part of the complex, has already been opened, that the beginning of the refurbishment of the Brick House into the Children’s House will be announced shortly and that the tender procedure for the refurbishment of the Rijeka City Library in the so-called T-facility will be repeated, thus setting the wheels in motion for the timely refurbishment of the Benčić complex.

Thorough renovation of details
Works on the Sugar Refinery Palace, which are entirely proceeding as planned, are conducted by the Slovene company VG5 d.o.o. The construction foreman Mihalac emphasised that the works are coming along very nicely, while also taking the opportunity to thank the investors and supervisors for their exemplary cooperation. He stressed that the most difficult building construction works are expected to be finished in approximately two weeks, followed by works on the interior refurbishment and facade regeneration.

Due to its importance, the building requires extensive reconstruction, with structure reinforcement, the partial replacement of the mezzanine structure, preparatory installation works and preparations for works on the roof, facade and the internal plastering of mortars being executed thus far in the process. Conservation works on the staircase and the wall paintings in the grand hall, as well as the veduta, hunting and other rooms, will begin soon. They will include, inter alia, the gilding of leaves on the staircase ceiling and the design of the staircase wreath, balusters and walls. The rooms will undergo the partial retouching of the ceiling and the missing parts of the wall paintings, as well as final painting.

The proportions, structure and main character of the Palace will not be modified in the renovation process. On the contrary, the foundation of the building’s new look will centre around preserving its distinctive appearance, which will be enhanced by the renovation of details. Upon completion of the reconstruction and furnishing, the permanent museum exhibition, occasional themed exhibitions, creative workshops and service facilities will be housed in an area of 4,272 m2.

The total value of the contracted works on the Sugar Refinery Palace is 44.5 million HRK. Institut IGH d.d. from Zagreb will carry out expert supervision. The cost of the expert supervision is 998,000 HRK.

The project documentation for the execution of reconstruction works on the Sugar Refinery Palace was drawn up by the Croatian Conservation Institute, with Irma Hujić, PhD, as chief designer.

New functional spaces
The new renovated ground floor will provide business premises – a bookstore with a gift shop, a cafe/patisserie and tourist content.

The permanent exhibition of the City Museum located on the first and second floors will tell the story of Rijeka’s history and culture to the visitors. This historical journey through the city – from the Roman Tarsatica to the modern age – will take place in more than 30 rooms and hallways on two floors. The 300-page-long project report on the prospective permanent exhibition of the City Museum includes many well-known stories from Rijeka, as well as a number of topics that have so far not been presented to the public at large in a manner that provides a complete overview of the history of Rijeka.

The first torpedo in the world, the Naval Academy, Rijeka as an immigration port, the history of the city theatre, the skyscrapers in Rijeka, shipbuilding, music, rock in Rijeka, the history of large companies in Rijeka – the Paper Factory, the Tobacco Factory… are just a few of the topics that will be presented in a detailed and interesting way through the items from the museum collection, various artefacts and photographs exhibited in over 30 rooms on two floors of the soon-to-be City Museum in the former Sugar Refinery Palace.

The conceptual design of the new permanent exhibition of the City Museum of Rijeka was drafted by the designer Nikolina Jelavić Mitrović, the recipient of the European Museum of the Year Award for her work pertaining to the Vukovar City Museum and the author of the decorated exhibition at the Sinj Alka Museum.

– In addition to the permanent exhibition, the palace itself is another important exhibit that will have its own exhibition, with the grand hall as the showpiece that will shine in all its glory. The exhibition will be very modern, with lots of interactive points, and I believe that it will do Rijeka and its many visitors proud when the city becomes the European Capital of Culture and in the years to come said Jelavić Mitrović.

The value of the furnishing and installation of the exhibition is estimated at 4.5 million HRK.

The premises for the work of the curator and the supporting staff will be located on the third floor, while the technical spaces and storage rooms will be located in the attic. A new staircase will also be constructed for evacuation purposes along the eastern facade of the building.

From industrialisation to culture
The Sugar Refinery Palace has been protected cultural heritage since 1970. The Croatian Conservation Institute has conducted research and the obtained results have urged thoughtful consideration of its future utilisation.

This monumental building, which was erected in 1752 as the operational building of the sugar refinery, is an integral part of the industrial complex that bears witness to the industrial development of Rijeka in the 18th century.

After the fire in 1785, the building was extensively renovated and its interior was furnished with Baroque wall paintings and stuccoworks.

In 1851, the Tobacco Factory management was located in the building and after 1945 it was repurposed once again and became the headquarters of the Rikard Benčić Engine Factory.
It will be open in 2020 as a representative space of the City Museum of Rijeka with a permanent exhibition on the history and culture of Rijeka.