Architectural excellence to drive urban development
Milan is a city of countless parts and fragments, a puzzle of multiple centers with a defined and recognizable structure and character. The north-west quadrant of the center, which developed along the axis of Viale Certosa, in line with the Maggiore cemetery and the former Municipality of Musocco, includes a very varied spread of structures and urban fabrics within the space of a few kilometers. North of the Gallaratese district, south of the Cimitero Maggiore and near the Ghisallo overpass, a few blocks straddle Via Gallarate characterized by an irregular and fragmented urban fabric, a mixture of craft workshops, garages, low-rise residential buildings, warehouses, and storage units, reflecting a stratification of different expansion processes over different periods.
Although only marginally affected by the rapid renaissance of real estate in Milan, the area is witnessing some development that may potentially define its urban and social renewal. One such project, the Arcadia Center, aimed to transform and rethink an existing Sixties complex.
Owned by InvestiRE SGR, a prominent asset management company operating mainly in Italy, the existing building in Via Grosio 10 was the focus of a substantive project to redefine its public image, as part of a winning strategy to reposition it on the market and find a tenant interested in moving in.
Rosario Grimaldi, Head of Listed & Opportunistic Funds at InvestiRE SGR engaged Giuseppe Tortato’s Milanese architecture practice for its ability to conceive of a real estate in broader urban and social terms.
Lacking a confirmed tenant and therefore a specific functional plan, the project’s goal was to conceive a new image for the existing building, retaining the structure and part of the volume unchanged.
The original building offered 20,000 sq. m of gross floorspace, including two basement floors housing storage areas and technical rooms, and six floors above ground originally deployed as laboratories and offices, in addition to technical structures on the roof.
From the second to the sixth floor, the building is configured as two separate buildings. Connected by a corridor, the main building faces south, while the secondary building looks north. Towards the street, a small volume serves as a guardhouse, from here offering access to the main building via a height difference.
Although both characterized by the use of exposed reinforced concrete, the two volumes that make up the complex are nevertheless morphologically different: the north building has a regular rectangular shape, the south building is divided into a central rectangular portion and two symmetrical wings at either end that flex towards the road.
Giuseppe Tortato’s project consisted of redevelopment through a recognizable and representative shell design, capable of conveying a renewed image not only for the building but the entire neighborhood. The intervention maintains and highlights the difference between the two pre-existing volumes, treating them as two complementary parts of a single whole, transposing into architecture the oriental philosophical concept of yin and yang: on the one hand, soft and sinuous white lines, on the other, harder and more well-defined features enhanced by the color black.
The south-facing building overlooks the private Via Grosio and a green area that marks the border to the Gallaratese district, opening out towards Milan’s new skyline. The façade system designed for this building emphasizes its horizontality through continuous and curved three-dimensional stringcourses that go all the way round the building development.
Assembled using the same construction principle as tanker trucks, the metal strips that encircle the building are made from a shell of thin metal sheets mounted on an underlying skeleton: ingenuity, precision and lightness made it possible to build elements designed using parametric software to serve as a parapet, sunshade and hallmark of the renovated building.
The northern building has a sloping, pitched roof at variable heights. This feature became a source of inspiration for new roofing on the adjacent volume, as if the two parts had cross-pollinated one another.
In order to stay within the very tight budget and timeframes - 12 months - the load-bearing structure was maintained and the entire project developed with BIM technology to ensure maximum control throughout and allow resources to be earmarked for improved energy performance and the internal workspace comfort. The now obsolete shading systems were removed in favor of solutions that ensure the maximum solar input in winter, and maximum reduction in summer: the south-facing full-height windows were positioned in front of the original pillars to enhance the horizontal dynamic; the north-facing windows also cover the space between the floors with a system of slats reminiscent of the original ones.
From a volumetric and distributive viewpoint, the project offered the chance to eliminate the original southern guardhouse and rethink the slab that joined the two main volumes. The design of the new patio allows more natural light to flow in, enhancing the livability of interior spaces. As with the new terraces, here greenery comes in as a regenerating element for building users complementary to the architecture itself.
The building was chosen as the new headquarters of Volkswagen Leasing & Bank. For the interiors, the new tenant appointed Il Prisma to develop the concept design, the preliminary and executive plan, and oversee the whole artistic project.
Proof of how successful this iconic redefinition of an existing piece of architecture has been is that Volkswagen Leasing & Bank Gmbh has decided to move in; another proof is the positive effect this development has had on the entire area. In an outlying and marginal part of town like Via Grosio, a successful architectural project turns into an opportunity for a widespread redevelopment process that, like an epicenter, can extend its social, economic and urban influence outwards to a much wider area.
Location: Milan, Italy - Client: InvestiRe SGR - Costs: 15,500,000 Euros
Architectural Design, Artistic Direction, Project and Worksite Coordination: Giuseppe Tortato Architetti
Project and Coordination Architect: Giorgia Celli - Project Team: Marco Bettalli, Daniele Nicoletti, Federica Grot, Federico Carabelli, Ilaria Albertin - BIM Management: Sebastiano Granetto, Domenico Contino - BIM Team Coordinator: Emanuele Banfi
Preliminary and Executive Design of Interiors: Il Prisma
Team Leader: Arianna Palano - Project Coordinator: Fabiola Carlomagno - Client Representative: Giuseppe Carone
Project Strategist: Giacomo Rozzo - Project Designer: Silvia Fernandez De Alaiza, Mattia Sironi
Fit Out: Paola Bizi - Rendering: Marco Ricciardulli, Djordje Joric
Structural, Fire System and Safety: F&M Ingegneria - Services Engineering and LEED Certification: Tekser
Façade and Envelope System: Eurodesign Crotti - Parametric Façade Modeling: Matteo Noto - BIM As-Built:
Simplex Design Studio
Customized Edith Luminaires, and Pool, Rollip and Tour Hanging Light System: Linea Light Group
Mystone Pietra di Vals Flooring and Pinch Wall Tiles: Marazzi
Heating and Cooling Systems: Mitsubishi Electric
Filter-fabric Roller Blinds: Omnitex
Text by Caterina Testa
Unless otherwise indicated, photography by Moreno Maggi Photographer, courtesy of Giuseppe Tortato Architetti
Portrait image by Yorick Photography, courtesy of Giuseppe Tortato Architetti