A bespoke suit of clothing
With its 60,000 square meters surface area and 300 retail outlets, Scalo Milano is Italy’s first luxury retail village. It is part of a new urban cluster, City Hub, which extends training, research and innovation into the largely agricultural area in the southern reaches of the city known as the Parco Agricolo Sud. The retail center is the result of a long and complex procedure that saw investors, architects and well-known brands join forces to make the development happen. Initially designed in the style of numerous European outlets, Scalo Milano was conceived to host the most prestigious design and furniture brands. To ensure the facility reflected the sleek modern lines of the high-end brands destined to occupy the new village, the investors opted for an equally contemporary style for the district itself. Architecture firm Metrogramma proposed a “sartorial” project to “dress” the building skeleton, previously designed by Cotefa.ingegneri&architetti, starting from the approved project and giving it a completely new, contemporary look. The project leaves unchanged both the plan and the skyline of the volumes but provides a flexible modular curtain wall to suit the various retailer requirements. The internal distribution routes are also clothed in colored paving throughout, creating a unified whole. On passing through the outsize entrances and leaving behind the surrounding countryside, the impression is of entering a cave. The factory, icon of Milan’s entrepreneurial flair, is the key architectural reference. The jutting industrial-shed shapes are like the tassels of a tape or ribbon unfurling across the inward-facing façades, each shop front adopting the “sartorial” style best suited to the occupant. The façades are characterized by the regular alternation of opaque, transparent and reflective materials in a series of warm and cold shades. Transparent glazing sits alongside mirror-finish aluminum panels and backpainted glass in warm reds and oranges. Materials and colors are compatible with façade orientation: the south-west elevations most exposed to the sun have prevalently reflective surfaces; they also mirror the palette of red colors on the north-east facing façades across the way. This medley of reverberations, reflections and their infinite multiplications is an apt interpretation of the “chaosmosis” that is urban complexity, where brands, commodities, buyers and sellers create a uniquely theatrical urban scene. The same meticulous attention has been given to the paving throughout Scalo Milano and the design of the communal spaces, their urban furniture, greenery and lighting. The wide variety of open spaces mirrors the old town center with its narrow alleys in counterpoint to wide boulevards, and secluded squares contrasting with large, intricately organized nodes. Not just geographic points of reference, the squares are also communal areas, their special function signposted by a change in paving surface, the basic interlocking paving slabs of the circuit giving way to areas of high-quality natural stone. In this way, the spatial hierarchy of the whole quarter is immediately apparent. Each of the three key public spaces represents one of Scalo Milano’s three retail categories: Fashion, Furniture Design, and Food. In each, water, natural vegetation and urban furniture create quality environments. In Piazza dell’Arte, the distribution circuits weave between three ground-level fountains. In Piazza del Design, a reflective pool invites shoppers to stop and rest awhile. The central sunken area shielded by extensive canopies marks out Piazza del Gusto as the pulsating heart of the district. Attention to detail is key to the project’s underlying goal of creating a high-end urban space. The layout of the interlocking paving slabs was the subject of careful study with the supplier to ensure a series of different patterns depending on the angle of observation. Pathways are lit with a lighting system set into the façades, providing evenly spread, diffused illumination. The entrances mark off the luxury retail village from its surrounds, clearly announcing to the newcomer that he is entering Scalo Milano. The extremely high roof melds with the thin evanescent panels cladding the buildings flanking the entrance, creating a continuous curtain wall delineating the district - a simple, elegant barrier between inside and out. The porous opaque outer surfaces reflecting the surrounding agriculture area stand in deliberate contrast to the brilliant reflective surfaces inside the village. On a broader scale, the decision to give space to temporary art exhibitions at Scalo Milano as well as the village’s proximity to the center of Milan - 30 minutes away by train from the nearby Locate Triulzi station - make for a new city pole in the extensive, multi-centric metropolitan area of Milan.