Sangiovanni Housing: A micro urban redevelopment project for students and others
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Sangiovanni Housing: A micro urban redevelopment project for students and others

A typical 1950s building in Via Balilla, Milan, is transformed into student accommodation with a strong personality

Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

Sangiovanni Housing: A micro urban redevelopment project for students and others
By Editorial Staff -

In designing this student residence in Via Balilla, Milan, Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia has created a dialogue between its diamond-cut ceramic cladding and hanging greenery. The result is an interplay of shadows and colors that change throughout the days, weeks, and seasons. Dubbed Sangiovanni Housing, the project has transformed a typical 1950s building into a design with a strong chromatic and material personality. The main façade – on Via Balilla in Milan’s Gentilino district, not far from Bocconi University – was clad with ceramic tiles, while the second- and third-floor balconies were extended without modifying the volume of the façade. (Local building regulations don’t allow cantilevered structures below 16 ft.) The elevation overlooking the inner courtyard, however, has a painted finish. The result combines aesthetics with functionality and improved energy efficiency.

To create uniformity and balance among the different sections of the building, metal framework was then incorporated into the Via Balilla façade to accommodate climbing plants and planters (also ceramic). A street-level gate was also added, which harmonizes with the metal framework above and, therefore, creates visual continuity with the balconies.


A micro project centered on quality

Sangiovanni Housing, Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia ©Stefano Anzini, courtesy of Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

“It’s a very small project,” explains architect Alfonso Femia. “It was partly for this reason that we were able to focus on quality, so as to provide residents with apartments with all the necessary services and able to respond to a range of different needs – from those of undergraduate and post-grad students to those of professors – including for extended periods.” There are some twenty apartments of various sizes on the building’s four floors, this immediately contributing to the “urban value” – as Femia puts it – of the project. “This is a micro redevelopment project affecting one part of the city that has included the building’s interiors and updating the management of the property itself in a technological sense – for example, with the badge entry system. What’s special about the project, therefore, is its ability to combine urban, functional, and qualitative aspects.”

This is a model that could be replicated elsewhere by other public-private partnerships and that gives architects a voice in addressing the issue of student accommodation, which, in view of the numbers involved, “needs a vision and a focused political strategy,” Femia adds, “involving upstream planning for each urban area needing development. We need something like they have in France, where there are buildings that incorporate social housing, free housing, and student housing. In other words, a vision of all these different functions brought together in the one place. It’s a way of making any neighborhood more vital and intergenerational.”

>>> Read about the Milano 3.0 residential complex.


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Location: Milan, Italy
Architects and Landscape Design: Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia / AF517
Area: 579 m2
Completion: 2022
Client: San Babila Store S.r.l.
Project Director: Marco Corazza
Construction Project Manager: Alfonso Femia with Marco Corazza and Vincenzo Tripodi

Structures Engineering: Emanuele Calloni
Services Engineering: Luigi Giupponi

Photography by Stefano Anzini, courtesy of Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

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