Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Known locally as "the pregnant oyster," this center for the arts was a gift from the US to Berlin in 1957.
On the corner of via dell’Agnolo and via Giuseppe Verdi, in the midst of Florence’s nightlife and within earshot of Piazza Santa Croce, sits a kiosk of pure nostalgia.
Professional set designer Matteo Sani—driven by fond memories and a sound knowledge of how they were once captured—restored an original 1969 photo booth, or Fotoautomatica, to its authentic form and installed it on this lively street corner. It drew such curiosity and affection that he restored four others and placed them throughout Florence, home to so many of the world’s unique artistic treasures.
Night revelers shout with delight, tourists heading to see Michelangelo’s David pause in confusion, and Vespas squeal to a halt at the sight of this wooden booth—a time machine of sorts. One of its most alluring qualities is the fact that Sani restored it to its original function, rather than updating it to animate one’s image or adjust the filter used.
Two euros and a bit of patience get you the traditional strip of four black-and-white photographs. For younger generations, these serve as vintage curiosities. But for those who visited the originals, the Fotoautomaticas offer the sensory memory of cramming inside a booth, closing the curtain, and waiting with suspense and expectation. Taking your cue from a blinking light, you’d smile, make a funny face or two, then maybe—if you were lucky—exchange a kiss, a bacio captured in time.
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