No-cost restorations to make Italy more beautiful Interview with Gianluca De Marchi

9 November 2015

Italy’s artistic and architectural heritage is a resource that could, if properly used, contribute significantly to the country’s economic recovery. This is something we hear often, especially when works of art or buildings threaten to collapse or are the target of vandalism. Local authorities are well aware of the economic opportunities offered by monuments, old buildings and museums, but financial difficulties often prevent them from being able to preserve them. As restoration costs are not always affordable, it is important to find alternative solutions. We asked Urban Vision’s CEO, Gianluca De Marchi, a few questions on the subject. “Urban Vision is a leading company in fund raising services aimed at restoring Italy’s architectural and artistic heritage. During our ten years of activity, thanks to sponsored restorations, we have brought back to splendour over 180 buildings, including monuments, historic palaces, churches and museums. We personally fund the restoration works, selecting the best qualified Italian experts and assuming all the risks of the projects. Finding sponsors to collaborate with us is just one aspect of our work, which doesn’t consist only in creating maxi billboards and in selling advertising spaces. Nowadays, more and more restoration projects are sponsored by companies that are not necessarily interested in advertising their brand, but offer significant contributions for the simple pleasure of making Italy more beautiful. This is the path we are looking to follow”.

What are the advantages for local authorities?
Redeveloping urban areas, restoring monuments and old buildings to their original beauty and refurbishing public buildings are all essential and pressing issues for local authorities, especially in a country like Italy, with such a great artistic heritage. Local authorities, mayors in particular, often struggle to find funds for this kind of work. This is where private contributions, through sponsoring, can help to cover the cost of the restoration work and finance feasibility studies and historical and archaeological research. Additionally, where restoration work is combined with affixing maxi billboards, local authorities can cash in on advertising fees and other applicable charges.

From advertising to “invisible sponsors”: is this the future? Is it a way around local authorities’ aversion towards advertising on monuments?
Despite the fact that maxi billboards are just a temporary measure, they are never popular with the public and therefore the local authorities; but I don’t think this is the reason why large brands or private individuals sponsor important restoration works without advertising their brands. I think they are moved by the realisation of being able to contribute to preserve unique works of art and being able to associate their name, or the name of their company, to such prestigious work.

Which new technologies can be applied to this sector? And how can they be used?
The latest technology, from the web and LED illumination, to the option of installing videowalls, creating multisensory special effects or even climbing up billboards, allow advertising to become an interactive communication tool and therefore reach targets more efficiently. At Urban Vision, we have a special unit, called Addendo, dedicated to cross-media marketing. The services it offers are becoming increasingly more popular and require considerable creativity. Over the years, the awards it has won and the nominations it has obtained in the advertising world are a testimony to its success.

Promoting “not-for- profit” initiatives is one of your activities: has it been a positive experience?
The values Urban Vision stands for are a distinctive characteristic of the company. We put great passion into our work to preserve Italy’s artistic heritage and we also believe it is important, and in line with our company’s mission, to offer our advertising spaces to contribute to social awareness campaigns. For example, we are very proud and honoured to have hosted, up to a few weeks ago, the Italian Red Cross recruitment campaign. An invitation to get involved in voluntary work targeted to the young generations, who we believe have the potential to make a difference.

Some of our country’s artistic treasures are located in small and medium municipalities: what is the approach in these cases? Can restoration work be combined with promotional services?
It depends on the artistic value of the work of art – church, monument or building – that requires restoration. Having said this, there have been instances in the north of Italy where local authorities have been able to collect sufficient funds to dedicate to restoration work, sometimes counting on the help of private patrons. Getting big brands involved would probably require focussing more on promoting those artistic and architectonic gems that are not included in the usual tourist routes and popular destinations, to raise awareness to the many hidden treasures of the Bel paese. This is something else we are working on.

Maintenance after restoration: how should it be tackled?
During our ten years of activity, there have been occasions when we have had to intervene on previously restored monuments or buildings, because some architectural and artistic works require constant maintenance. Bernini’s Barcaccia fountain is a good example, as due to water erosion, it requires attention at least every ten years. When there is the will to preserve these treasures, to work seriously and professionally, it is also possible to take into account maintenance. More often monuments are restored, less time it takes and less it costs, in terms of both money and damage to the monument.