Assago, 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.