This rebuilding project involves an early twentieth-century building in Milan. The building’s composition and materials – walls, plinth, decorative concrete stringcourse, render, windows with sills and mouldings, gates, art nouveau entrance canopy, gutters, and bay window overlooking a courtyard garden – all convey a sense of stability. In the project, the external walls and windows were left unaltered so that the exterior would continue to express continuity in the building’s function, without any obvious changes within its urban setting. The building, the headquarters of an enterprise in the broad sense, possesses a certain amount of restraint and refinement, which was a key element in the decision to preserve its more recent history in the form of its exterior.
The underlying concept of the project is to upend uniformity between the inside and outside of a building in terms of appearance, materials and the arrangement of spaces. The redesign of the interior was aimed at creating reference points, unions within contrasts, and a sense of balance between feelings of tension and alienation in a building with a ‘split personality’.
From outside, the building is composed – its initial appearance is reassuring in that it offers no departure from what the eye is accustomed to seeing. But the view from the entrance encourages the visitor to investigate further. The design by DAP (Paolo Danelli and Elena Sacco, with Antonio Gentili and Isabella Maruti) is a well-structured strategy to create a new experience that interweaves distinction and modernity, bringing together in the headquarters of asset managers Swiss & Global both preservation and innovation in a kind of synthesis that expresses its corporate image.
The architects set out to design interior spaces in which the solidity of walls dissolves through the creation of a kind of shell that partly covers the interiors. The novel, attractive geometries of the shell characterize the corridors, while maintaining a distance from certain areas of the outside walls. From the moment you enter the building, this new ‘skin’ is present, superimposed on the walls (with a gap running beside the stairs), with its corrugated pattern of white wooden battens on timber infill being assimilated into the overall composition through their full and empty spaces, while also creating a dynamic of vibrations through the slight accent created by its protruding battens. The pathways through the renovated interior spaces reflect the accent of the changes, with their abstraction of shapes and sensations, the real and symbolic distances between the masonry, the gaps formed where the interior shell meets the windows, and the new arrangement of the corridors and rooms on the four redesigned floors.
Public areas are situated on the mezzanine floor, along with a multimedia room with movable walls. When the walls are closed, the room can host meetings; when open, it can be used as an exhibition space. Stairs to the side provide access to a garden, which can also be used for public exhibitions. The management and operations offices are located on the first floor. On the second are reception and meeting rooms of different sizes. On the third floor, which extends above the main roofline, is a guesthouse and wellness area.
The new interior spaces are based around substitution and abstraction. Kerlite floors and ceilings in the same shades of grey create a framework, visually marking off the upper and lower extensions of the space, while the interior wall coverings create a feeling of light along the passageways. Blocks of glass in solid colours mark the junctions between passageways, representing a kind of pivot in the system of corridors within the diffused and uniform light of the interior spaces. Each floor has a service block, clearly identified by a single colour, with the effect that their vertical and horizontal surfaces merge, contributing to the special ambivalence of the interiors.
Client: Swiss & Global Asset Management
Gross Floor Area: 1.300 m2
Architects: DAP Studio/Elena Sacco – Paolo Danelli, Antonio Gentili, Isabella Maruti
Design Team: Alessia Mosci, Carolina Martinelli, Fabio Pellizzari
Works Supervision (construction and fittings): Paolo Danelli
Works Supervision (installations and supplies): Antonio Gentili, Isabella Maruti
Contractors: Edil Design, Elleterm
Rubber flooring: Tarkett
Lighting: Viabizzuno, Plexiform, Sera
Sanitary Fittings: Catalano
Interior Contractor: Barth
Kerlite Flooring: Cotto d’Este
Bathroom Furniture: Inda
Photo by: © Alessandra Bello
DAP is based in Milan. It was established in 1992 by Elena Sacco and Paolo Danelli, both of whom graduated from the Milan Polytechnic Faculty of Architecture. The studio has both public and private clients, and is involved in projects of various sizes. A key theme over recent years has been the design of public spaces for cultural activities, which DAP Studio combines with the development of cultural projects and systems. Using the synergy between these areas, the studio focuses on the programmatic aspects of projects, namely, feasibility studies and preliminary drafts of architectural designs. DAP Studio participated in the Italian Pavilion at the 12th Venice Architecture Biennial in 2010 and was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2011. In 2009 it received an honourable mention in the Medaglia d’Oro all’Architettura Italiana Award.