With no one to sponsor him, Marino Auriti’s dream museum became the stuff of legends.
By Stefany Anne Golberg
Marino Auriti kept Il Enciclopedico Palazzo del Mondo in the garage. It was stored in the back, past scores of Auriti’s paintings that hung salon-style (as his granddaughter remembers) nearly floor-to-ceiling over the garage walls, and past the array of car parts that lay on the cement. His paintings were mostly reproductions of photographs clipped from National Geographic and paintings of the Renaissance masters. Marino Auriti loved Raphael and Michelangelo and Leonardo.
Auriti was a car mechanic by trade but architecture was his passion. The Italian-American immigrant began working on Il Enciclopedico in the 1950s, after he had retired. The sculpture Auriti kept in his garage-turned-studio had a footprint of 7 feet by 7 feet. In the center was a tiered tower about 11 feet high. The tower was surrounded by a tiny piazza, enclosed by columns. In each corner was a domed building. To make Il Enciclopedico Auriti used bits of wood, brass, plastic, and model-making kit parts. For the windows he used celluloid; for the balustrades, the teeth of hair combs. At the top of the tower was a television antenna.
But this sculpture was not itself Il Enciclopedico Palazzo del Mondo. It was only a model for the real Il Enciclopedico Palazzo del Mondo Auriti hoped to build. He specifically hoped to build it on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.