Renovating an unfinished building
Milan’s Porta Nuova district is a showcase of architecture. The redevelopment of the former Isola industrial zone and a railyard, the district reopened in 2009, returning a large area to the city that’s characterized by futuristic projects focused on design and sustainability. In many cases, these buildings are the work of internationally renowned architecture firms. Nowadays, it’s a lively, highly livable area in which a complex of mixed-use residential, retail, and office buildings are linked by parks, pedestrian zones, squares, bridges, and cycle paths.
This is the setting for Milan’s newest architectural landmark. De Castillia 23 is a mixed-use office and retail building designed by Progetto CMR. It was built as part of the Unipol Group’s Urban Up project for the redevelopment of the group’s buildings, which include some of Italy’s most important examples of architecture.
The project has given a second life to an unfinished building that had been in a state of neglect for years. The project by Progetto CMR has created a new identity for this building composed of two parts – one low, one high. A key element of the project was overhauling the façade, not only to bring it up to the standard of the surrounding buildings, but also to make it a symbol of the Porta Nuova redevelopment as a whole.
And the façade is striking. A prismatic, multifaceted envelope, it resembles a sparkling cloak draped over the existing façade that reflects and filters light with surprising, iridescent effects, and always appears different, depending on the angle of the sun.
The façade is composed of triangular glass panels set in a steel structure and arranged in V shapes. It covers both volumes that make up the building, for a total of 11,840 sq.ft. (1.100 m2), also wrapping around all the building’s terraces. It combines aesthetics and functionality, making the building stand out against its urban backdrop through the interplay of light and reflections it creates, while also reflecting a commitment to sustainability, its transparency providing 70% of all interior lighting during business hours.
The façade’s opaque external surfaces are ceramic with anti-pollution properties, which absorb up to 130 lb. (59 kg) a year of nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere – equivalent to 49 acres (20 h) of green space.
But sustainability runs through the entire project. The building’s latest-generation services are powered by renewable sources, the roof has a photovoltaic system for clean energy production, and a groundwater heat pump uses geothermal energy for cooling and heating. Finally, the project also includes half an acre (2.000 m2) of new green space, returning some 10 T (9 t) of oxygen to the atmosphere every year.
The project, which in addition to offices and various amenities has an auditorium and an internal courtyard, was awarded the prestigious Award of Excellence by the CTBUH – Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat for the category of buildings up to 100 meters in height, a recognition that underscores the role and prestige of De Castillia 23 as a fundamental part of the transformation of Porta Nuova.
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Location: Milan, Italy
Architects: Progetto CMR, Massimo Roj Architects
Main Contractor: Gilardi Costruzioni
Gross Floor Area: 33,350 sq. m
Structures: Angelo Grasselli – Romano di Lombardia (BG)
Systems Engineering: Giorgio Finotti – Finotti & Ponzoni S.r.l
Façade Cladding: Fiandre – Granitech
Photography by Alberto Strada courtesy of Progetto CMR