Restructuring with “serenity”
Office Building La Serenissima
Milan, Italy, 2008-2012
Working on a finished piece of architecture that has already been absorbed by the city and its inhabitants, is a truly challenging task for an architectural designer. This is because on one hand there is the need to conserve the legacy of a given moment in time, the work of some specific architect or the profile of a piece of builtscape, and on the other coming to terms with the need to transform the building in relation to passing time. It also means coming to terms with a different stylistic language, understanding it and, if need be, altering it to find the right balance between respect for the original architect’s work and one’s own creativity. There is always a risk of lapsing into either slavish conformity to the building’s existing traits or, worse still, the kind of expressive egocentrism that tends to forget there was already something there. As shown in its regeneration project Park Associati never lapses into mistakes like this, having managed to find an effective means of working on the 20th century’s building and architectural legacy. An approach which involves “listening” to the existing construction and being able to reinterpret its language while injecting it with fresh life in line with its original form. The old Palazzo Campari building, now better known as “La Serenissima”, symbolised Milan’s economic boom, optimism and major enterprises, as well as a certain kind of linguistic modernism that had found plenty of room to express itself in Milan. After this famous old brand moved on, the building, between via Turati and via Cavalieri, was bought by Morgan Stanley, which launched an invitational competition to transform it in 2008 with a view to turning it into a new office complex to be rented out. Park Associati won first prize and the commission to carry out a project that managed to wipe off the patina of time and bring the construction back to life while conforming to the original building’s architectural idiom. The building was given a more flexible and efficient interior layout, ensuring greater energy-saving, restoring the internal garden to its former glory and, in accordance with existing rules and regulations, removing all the asbestos from its structures. The most significant work was carried out on the facades. The design team suggested setting them back by approximately 35 cm compared to the original perimeter, which involved redesigning them. This made it possible to get rid of any so-called “thermal bridges” and salvage 300 m² of usable surface area on the ground floor, where a number of premises serving the services industry were also constructed. By carefully studying the rhythmic layout of the original project designed by the Soncini brothers, Park Associati introduced greater modular complexity into the redesigned facades: burnish-coloured die-cast and perforated aluminium boxes along Via Turati turn into authentic lanterns when they are rear-lit at night-time, while extensive shiny grey-coloured glass surfaces along via Cavalieri reflect their historical surroundings.
The changes introduced by Park Associati were aimed at making the Serenissima building more energy-efficient, resulting in it being awarded LEED Gold Certification.
Combination of suspended boxes
Milanofiori Nord, Assago, Milan, Italy, 2013
Milanofiori is one of the most interesting areas
in the architectural melting pot that is
the modern-day city of Milan.
An extension to the first period of urbanisation dating back to the 1970s serving mainly office purposes at the entrance to Assago, this new quarter has been the focus of major architectural debate, forcing architecture to ask itself what constructing a fragment of cityscape really means nowadays.The office complex generically referred to as U27, but already known as the Nestlé Headquarters, is the latest piece (chronologically speaking) to be constructed in this miscellaneous mosaic of different types of architecture serving different purposes and functions. The work block was designed by Park Associati in partnership with the engineering company General Planning and is located inside a central core of landscaping that represents – together with the square – the heart of the new neighbourhood as it connects up with existing woodlands to the north.
The presence of this both spontaneous and carefully designed piece of natural landscaping had a considerable influence on the architectural design of the office complex that was envisaged in visual relation to these features. Another important aspect of U27’s layout and structural design, in conjunction with an analysis of the site’s climatic factors, was a careful study of the (pedestrian and road vehicle) entrance systems to the Milanofiori Nord area, which dictated the location of the entrance, hall and a small square over on the south-west side acting as an extension to the main pedestrian entrance to this sector. It also resulted in road traffic
being diverted behind the complex into an area concealed behind an embankment.
This means the Nestlé Headquarters actually looks like
a compact and enclosed structure, whose layout is based around a central courtyard and whose fragmentary nature is fully revealed in its elevation and in the composition of various perspectives. Park Associati proposed a set of structures which the architectural designers themselves described as “suspended boxes”, differing in size, height, angle of inclination and surface treatment of the individual facades, brought together and unified by means of the private landscaping – the central courtyard designed like a “secret garden” – around which the structures are all arranged.
The entire complex is clad with a high energy-efficiency glass skin, which, depending on the visual angles and positioning, takes on various different configurations, at certain points actually turning into a mirror reflecting the surrounding environment or transforming into a sunscreen made of vertical blades of coloured glass. Needless to say the design and construction of the complex does not overlook the issue of sustainability – an important matter for Park Associati -, the building has been awarded Gold Class “Core and Shell” LEED certification.
Angelica Di Virgilio