The denied ramps at a museum

Although Australian buildings are relatively new compared with those in Europe, heritage values are sometimes used to prevent workable access solutions to older buildings. This paper discusses the issue of pitting two different values against each other – heritage and accessibility. The complex museum structure at the Church of San Salvatore in Brescia is used as a case study.

Similarly to contemporary projects, when ancient buildings are opened up to the public for the first time, accessibility should be considered first, not when the complaints come in. The authors conclude, “… accessibility to culture and cultural heritage is to be understood as synonymous with democracy and sustainability”. 

A view of the interior of the museum showing painted walls and a long arched corridor.
Santa Giulia Museum, Brescia
External view of the Church of San Salvatore- a light coloured three story building with a square tower.
Church of San Salvatore, Brescia

The title of the paper is, “Does Pure Contemplation Belong to Architecture? The Denied Ramps at the Church of San Salvatore in the Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia”. The paper was presented at the 6th International Universal Design Conference held in Brescia 7-9 September 2022. Authors are Alberto Arenghi and Carlotta Cocoli. The full paper is open access and can be downloaded from IOS Press Ebooks.

You can also access all other published conference papers for this conference.


This paper addresses the issue of balancing the two values underlying the accessibility and conservation of cultural heritage: its use and its protection. These values are often, wrongly, regarded as opposites, or as incompatible. The reason for this contrast originates in the way of understanding ancient architecture and in the value of the relationship between architecture and people.

This issue is considered by presenting a recent case concerning the Museum of Santa Giulia in Brescia, a multi-layered complex that preserves evidence ranging from the prehistoric to the contemporary age, housed in a monastic complex of Longobard origin.

The recent failure to build some ramps proposed for increasing accessibility to the church of San Salvatore, an integral part of the museum’s itinerary, offers an opportunity to reflect on the need for better integration between different, and only apparently opposed, instances.

The topic is dealt with by referring to the most recent disciplinary reflections in the field of conservation carried out in Italy with respect to the issue of accessibility to the cultural heritage, without neglecting juridical-normative aspects and international documents, such as the Faro Convention.

This multidisciplinary reading aims to highlight the main significance of accessing cultural heritage, with reference also to the objectives of sustainable development and the human development of the individual and the reference community.


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