Built on the basis of plans drawn up by the Florentine rationalist architect Italo Gamberini, the Centre for Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the Industrialist Enrico Pecci, with contributions by the city administration, various companies, business people and private citizens. It is active internationally, with a wide program of temporary exhibitions, didactic activity, documentation and information, multimedia events and performances. It furthermore has an important permanent collection consisting of works by major artists over the past 30 years, aquired as a testimony to exhibitions held and research carried out at the museum. The museum complex, which includes the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Centre of Information and Documentation/Visual Arts, the Education Department and the Events Section, consists of exhibition rooms, various spaces for concurrent exhibitions, didactic workshops, the centre of information and documentation with its specialist library, bookshop, auditorium, conference room, bar, open air theatre, sculpture garden and exhibition room for the permanent collection.
At the end of the Seventies the idea of Cav. Enrico Pecci of donating space for a museum to the city, in memory of his son Luigi who had died at an early age, met with reflections made by the Comune of Prato for setting up a centre of documentation to support knowledge of, and transmission of material related to, contemporary art.
Already in 1978 the engineer Attilio Mazzoni had drawn up an urban plan in the eastern part of the city aimed at "tertiary services", located at the crossroads of the large avenues (Viale Leonardo da Vinci and Viale della Repubblica) and not far from the motorway exit of Prato Est (motorway Firenze-Mare).
In 1981, the Comune approved the donation of the museum and the choice of the site. The "building program", which besides the museum building would have also included two buildings for services, was then entrusted to the Florentine architect Italo Gamberini.
In 1983, in the meantime, the city administration set up the centre for information and documentation for the visual arts (CID/Arti Visive), a structure whose purpose was the collection and transmission of materials related to contemporary artistic production, extended to themes such as contemporary architecture and industrial design.
In 1984, building permission was granted for Gamberini's project. At the same time, contacts were made between the Comune, businesses and banks in order to run the structure being created, while "statutes" were also drawn up.
In 1987, the deeds for setting up the Association "Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art" were signed in the Town Hall of Prato. It would not then be long before - in the industrial city that has always known how to blend imagination, enterprise and pragmatism - there would arise - unique among Italian museums -a great cultural centre consisting of the Museum of Contemporary Art, then in the latter stages of construction, and a centre of information and documentation for the visual arts, already set up by the Comune di Prato. The new institution, which was a sign of prestige for the entire city, would have at the end added value to the "renewed patrimony and tradition of the world of economy and work in Prato" by "accomplishing cultural activities of interest to all" - as then the head of the Culture Department of the Comune and the first President of the Centre, Massimo Bellandi, said. The Museum was inaugurated on the 25th June 1988 with the "panoramic" exhibition Europa Oggi.
Enrico Pecci (January 1910-January 1988), a Prato industrialist and Cavalier of Work, began his career at a young age. When his father died in 1936, he took over the reins of the textile business his father had founded some thirty years previously. For more than twenty years he devoted his life entirely to work, the family and long foreign business trips. In the 60s he also turned his attention to the financial world and the construction business, leaving the running of the factory to his sons Luigi and Alberto. It was towards the end of the 70s, after the premature death of his son Luigi in 1973, that the idea took shape to realize "something" for the city that was not the customary old people's home or kindergarten. Enrico Pecci wanted something that would give prestige to the city of Prato and would develop lively, constantly evolving cultural activity. This gave birth, around 1978, to the idea of establishing a flexible and dynamic cultural arts centre based on already-existent foreign models. In 1981, after approval by Prato City Council of the donation of the museum and the proposed urban structure (the museum building and two buildings for tertiary services), the architect Italo Gamberini was invited to produce and execute the final project. Finally in 1985, after a not inconsiderable number of difficulties in the design stage, including planning permission issues and modifications to the project, a group of private investors was formed, headed by Massimo Bellandi (Spokesman for Cultural Affairs) and Enrico Pecci. This group spent over two years working on the complex task of drafting the statute of the Association, a mixed public-private body which now has the job of managing all the activities of the museum. Sadly, Enrico Pecci did not live to see the museum he had imagined and so strongly desired fully completed and in its most beautiful and functioning state. He died in January 1988, just five months before the inauguration of the museum and its first show, "Europa oggi".
The project to design the new Centre for Contemporary Art was given to the Florentine architect Italo Gamberini (1907-1990) in 1981. Gamberini was an exponent of Tuscan rationalism, whose manifesto work is the train station of S. Maria Novella in Florence, designed in 1933 by Giovanni Michelucci but which was in fact the thesis project of the youthful Gamberini. He later went on to work for a long period as a professor at the University of Florence and to design a number of important buildings, including the regional headquarters of the RAI in Florence. Building work on the museum in Prato began in 1985 and was completed in 1988, the year it was inaugurated.
The main building - with a low, apparently U-shaped layout closed off by the tiers of seating of the open-air theatre - is the fulcrum of a complex of buildings to which the museum is directly connected by means of a covered tunnel leading to the Visual Arts/IDC, the Graphic Arts rooms and the offices. The rectilinear building that delimits the part of the museum running parallel to Viale della Repubblica houses, amongst other things, in a large, sunken, multi-purpose space next to the hotel, the new centre for the Permanent Collection. This has been built to the project of the architects Alberto Bacchi and Tiziano Sarteanesi, who also designed the Palazzo Albizzini Foundation - Burri Collection at Città di Castello.
The various building units are bound together by a green area in which are sited large sculptures belonging to the collection, by a number of internal roads and pedestrian paths, and by a large open-air car park. The museum building is on three floors, with alternating symmetrical and asymmetrical, rationalist and organic forms: in the basement there is a private car park and a storage area; the ground floor houses the reception area, conference room, Education Department workshops, the bar/restaurant and the auditorium; and on the first floor, besides the entrance and the tunnel leading to the Visual Arts/IDC, there is the library, the ticket office and the asymmetrical chessboard of the 10 inter-communicating exhibition rooms.