Renzo Piano’s complex project for the new Milan headquarters of Italy’s financial daily, “Il Sole 24 Ore”, is located in the “old” trade fair district now undergoing radical transformation. This brown site comprises a three-sided, former industrial building between Viale Monterosa and Via Tempesta opening onto an inner court. The main entrance in the central Viale Monterosa block stretches the full depth of the building, allowing direct views from the road onto luxuriant inner gardens.
On the court side, the full volume entrance looks out from all storeys onto the abundant greenery of the inner enclosure - including a rolling green hill – that is echoed by a far-reaching replanting scheme on the busy Viale Monterosa, a specific requirement of the designer to provide the city with a new “urban park”. In this way the regenerated complex is literally enveloped in greenery, with beneficial effect for the surrounding micro-climate.
The rolling green hill contains a company canteen seating 500, an auditorium, warehousing and parking areas. Its anti-glare glazed roofing not only provides natural lighting for the interiors below but also breaks up the green mound. A trellis of lanceolate-shaped steel girders support the roof, cantilevering out to form a protective canopy.
The incredibly lightweight quality the building exudes is achieved by the way the building mass and frontage have been broken up with vertical services and communication blocks. The space “lost” by this architectural design has been recovered by the addition of two storeys, the topmost level set back 4 m on the road-facing side and about 2.50 m on the court side. The base of the building is clad in horizontal strips of “cotto” tiling, while the glazed frontage along Via Tempesta is articulated by three towers. The facades are reinforced by vertical glass elements and connected to the concrete floors by transparent horizonal, heat-resistant glass pannelling.
A transparent surface during the daytime, the building turns into a gently glowing volume at night, as if projecting outward the intense work going on inside as next day’s newspaper goes to print. The roofing is a composite structure of alternating metal grid, screen printed glazing and brise-soleil strips. The effect is that of a continuous suspended structure hovering over the top floor. The ineffeable lightness and transparency of the complex are strong metaphors well suited to the functions housed by the building. The transparency that allows outside observors to look inside becomes overturned at night when the building projects itself onto the surrounding world.
By the same token, the verdant hill in the inner court seems to overflow and continue into the neighbourhood greenery: a physical and symbolic expression of the paper’s ceaseless dialogue with the city of which it is part. The daringly brilliant green of the sun blinds on the glazed panels are breathtakingly original; it is a relief from the grey city tones, providing a spring-like freshness to an urban context and recalling the quieter green of the natural vegetation.