Vito e Gustavo Latis,
Directional Centre and Historical Alfa Romeo Museum,
Arese, Italy, 1976
The project to create a new head office and the Alfa Romeo Historical Museum, set within a large green area close to the Milan-Laghi motorway in the municipality of Arese, was drawn up by Antonio Cassi Ramelli and Vittore Ceretti. The various buildings of the complex (three office buildings, plus a single-floored fourth building, a cafeteria and the museum volume) are all centred around an elevated square. The entrance hall in building “B” is the first area accessed from the square. This five-storey structure also hosts the boardroom on its top floor, which is illuminated by a large skylight. Each building is set on a modular 760x760cm grid, considered the most suitable for this type of structure. The buildings are staggered and rotate ar aound an axis connecting the blocks, forming a continuous pat ah and constituting the backbone of the entire complex. To the back of the central corridor in each building, a windowless service block comprising bathrooms and lifts is located. All of the offices, on the other hand, look out onto the outside. The external façades of the various building volumes are divided horizontally by bands of parapets made from precast lined concrete, lightened by a series of square openings. These bands are broken only by large protruding corbels. The parapet balconies also serve a functional purpose. In fact, they facilitate external maintenance, help to break sound waves originating from the motorway, in addition to creating a current of air along the façades, thus reducing the effects of sunlight. The buildings are crowned by a large overhanging cornice constructed in smooth exposed concrete. This cornice is also interrupted in correspondence with the large corbels. The crowning band also conceals the slightly slopped pitched sheet metal roofs behind it. In comparison, the detached “Orazio Satta” Historical Museum building, built between 1973 and 1975, appears eccentric. This building is probably the part of the complex that most effectively conveys the compositional sensitivity of Vito and Gustavo Latis. The building is only two floors high and is accessed from the square by means of a staircase descending to the double-height entrance hall. The inside of the building is organised on staggered levels, with certain areas extending the full height of the building, providing an entirely free space to showcase Alfa Romeo’s historical models. The structure is made of metal, while the partitioning walls are completely transparent. The large exterior windows, a small internal patio and a sort of impluvium that four sloping sides flow into, all allow ample light to filter into the building. The museum building façade comprises a large transparent surface, a kind of showcase window that draws the attention of those travelling along the motorway.
The distinct parts of the large prism are culminated with an important protruding cornice, formally recalling the upper band of the administrative buildings.
Federico Ferrari (Vito and Gustavo Latis – Fragments of a city by Maria Vittoria Capitanucci – Skira Editore)