Located in the north-east of Milan near major thoroughfares, Metro connections and parklands, the RCS publishing group buildings form a communications and media hub. An expression of entrepreneurialism and farsightedness, it typifies the modern Milan of the late twentieth century. Then, as now, choices of location can have important cultural implications, bringing value to contrasting redevelopment, renewal, and transfer projects. The area, which is known as the Rizzoli sector and runs along a street named after the company’s founder, Angelo Rizzoli Sr., is an interesting case in that the architectural renewal that is underway could be defined as in loco, in that it is the company itself that is behind the renewal of the buildings, which housed the offices of the publisher’s magazines and printing presses.
In 2001, the winning project for the site (Boeri Studio – Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra) was a structure designed so that it could be reconfigured at a later date. The aim was twofold: to create a shared architectural identity and a recognizable urban identity – a part of the city that is inward looking while at the same time reflecting the city as it evolves. The first construction on the site consisted of an open urban courtyard flanked by a building characterized by the extensive use of glass, consisting of a low section that, in the corner near the parklands, rises to an 18-floor tower. It was joined in 2011 by the B5 building, designed by Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra, who, since their 2001 design, had set up an independent architecture studio. The building reflects the same objectives as the framework plan in its position alongside the adjacent structure (the so-called Block C, which forms the open courtyard and incorporates the tower), with its five-storey rectangular block design having the same simplicity and regular features. The design is also energy efficient, making it possible for the building with its heat pump system to achieve a Class A rating.
The facades are all similar, with their materials reflecting those of Block C and likewise characterized by the extensive use of glass. The idea was to create a point of reference on two fronts: to enhance the configuration of this complex that produces different forms of media and to create a connection with the surrounding urban areas. The design of the facades was a primary focus and incorporated numerous objectives. The design provides for a uniform external finish for the building of silk-screened glass, but with different types of this glass used for the composition of the different elements. The elevations have a visual richness, created by the combination of horizontal bands and vertical modules. The glass creates a “graphic design”, with overlapping elements, transparency and opacity, and alternating white and grey with black the dominant colour of the glass on the ground floor. The silk-screened toughened glass floor courses mark off horizontal divisions of the elevations, framing the vertical glass sheets, which are staggered on the different levels, in a uniform black. The graphically punctuated two-dimensional plane of the elevations is then underscored by an element that creates depth in the form of a series of silk-screened vertical glass panels that also act as sunscreens. A feeling of mutability is thus created through the combination of the different elements of the facades, which are the same material but in different colours and with different degrees of transparency and therefore appear different in different natural light conditions throughout the day and the seasons. This creates a visual dynamism, with different viewing angles offering a different perception of the facade. If moving, the viewer can take in the variations around the building perimeter.
The design of the B5 building accentuates its urban elements, following the different heights of the site and highlighting the ground floor level walkway, with its grey pre-painted mesh walls, between the interior of the building, the communications media “village”, and the entrance from the car park and gardens. The load bearing structure is beams and columns with concrete and masonry slabs, and brick infill walls. The floor plan is designed for flexibility: The work areas are arranged around the perimeter, the stairwells and elevators, while the service areas and meeting rooms are arranged along the middle of each floor.