Genius Loci – the Arsenale from the past to the future

by Marina Spreafico with Marco Ferreri

A journey in two episodes through thousands of years of history in search of a navel of the world

First episode: heresy and sanctity – Second episode: dreams and utopias


A true visiting card of the Teatro Arsenale, GENIUS LOCI presents the “place of the Arsenale,” its history, the process of its creation, to the people of the city, to strangers, to the curious, to passersby.Traveling into the depths of a place, discovering its Genius Loci,seeing it in action in time: performance, exhibition, visit, tour, documents...A bit of all this and perhaps more.


I have been at the Teatro Arsenale, a place that appears to have a special aura to anyone who enters, since 1978. I have collected some fragmentary information about its history over the course of time, but it is only for a few years now that I have been carrying out more thorough research. The investigation is never-ending: from the first traces of Celtic occupation at the time of the Romans, to 1273, the year of the building’s construction, and then over the centuries, down to our own day, what is now the Teatro Arsenale has been a crossroads of mystical religiosity and heresy, a business center, a cradle of the most traditional Milanese theater, a repository of dreams and utopian ideas and more still.

Secret and highly emblematic stories of the social and religious life of Milan and Lombardy cross paths at the Arsenale. Few know these fascinating tales. They deserve to be told and more widely known. A profound understanding of the history of the ground on which we set our feet every day links us to the endless flow of time that, coming from the remote past, passes through us and carries on toward the future. The Arsenale is also oriented toward the future, as we shall see.

With the collaboration of Marco Ferreri, architect and designer, we have come up with a production “in pieces” that will be gradually enriched with new discoveries and – why not? – the contribution of anyone who brings new evidence and documents. Thus it will be a living and ever-changing show.

Marina Spreafico

texts and direction Marina Spreafico

set design and exhibition Marco Ferreri

videos and photographs Ino Lucia, Raphael Monzini

research and graphic design Alessandra Castelbarco, Marco Di Nallo, Stefano Marruso