The historic Milanese company Ugolini S.p.a., which produces refrigeration machines for soft drinks and ice cream, celebrates its 75 years of activity with a new headquarters and production, which brings together the activities so far present in the nearby town of Vigonzone (PV) and the administrative and commercial functions of Opera (MI).
Mitigating the perception of the industrial climate through the presence of plants: this principle has guided the design choices at the basis of the intervention, which involves the construction of three separate buildings arranged in a trapezoidal lot of 64,000 square meters, which lies along the former State Road 412.
The Barreca & La Varra studio was involved in the project in its entirety: from the masterplan design, to the architectural project, to landscape design and interior design. The input, strongly desired by the client from the very beginning of the project activities, to concentrate in a single entrance the access of all the company’s employees, even though they operate in different functions of the headquarter (commercial, administrative and production operators), immediately determined the need to develop a project that would provide strong fluidity, both from the point of view of the management of the internal layouts, and from the volumetric and architectural point of view: the open court morphological solution was thus identified. Putting together the typical spatial needs of the production sector with those of the tertiary sector, it was essential to provide a structural study that would allow different building systems (the one in place for offices and the prefabricated one for warehouse and production) to coexist, while not polluting the overall architectural image. The resulting volumes are intended to give, also thanks to the recovery of the “archetypal” shape of the pitched-roofed house, a “human” and domestic scale to the complex, even if extensive, and their composition from some points of view is capable of generating almost metaphysical scenarios, to which the fog often present in the area contributes to provide a suitable background. The buildings therefore interpenetrate, while remaining structurally independent, and this interaction characterizes the architectural fronts that reflect on the outside the structural world to which they belong. There are three main materials chosen to connote the volumes of the buildings: a ventilated façade in medium grey GRC, prefabricated concrete panels treated with different finishes, and painted corrugated sheet metal, crowning all the roofs.
It is precisely in the careful search for harmony and continuous dialogue between the elements that we find the exceptionality of the intervention: the intention to create a rigorous and orderly work space has led to an almost obsessive study of material references and alignments between spatial and architectural elements at different scales (interior layout, facade design, organization of outdoor spaces, street furniture), but also leaving room for “exceptional” and refined objects and details.
The office building of 3000 square meters, distributed on two floors, reinterprets the morphology of the Lombard farmhouse with an open courtyard, and embraces four large trees that contribute to animate the collective space. Four entrance lobbies, two of which are double height and very bright thanks to the zenithal skylights, distribute the internal spaces of meeting rooms and offices, mostly organized in open space. The interiors are characterized by the combination of sober and refined materials, treated with extreme refinement and attention to detail by craftsmen, such as the solid wood paneling that cover the main lobbies, in continuity with the flooring of the stairs, also wooden. The interior spaces are constantly interconnected thanks to the presence of large glass walls that allow to look at different environments and maintain visual contact between the users of the building. Precisely for this reason, wooden coverings have also been chosen for the office environments, where the mobile walls and perimeter furniture are finished in oak.
The reference to the production environment is also present in the flooring: in the lobbies the cement effect resins have the same colors as the industrial floors of the plant and warehouse, and in the working environments – managed with floating flooring to ensure maximum flexibility in the steps and plant implementations – are finished with rolled concrete effect stoneware slabs. Adjacent to the offices is the production space of 5500 square meters, visible through window openings from the “research and development” section located on the second floor of the office building: the volumetric continuum aims to further equalize the roles of productive and administrative employees, as well as standardize the intervention as a whole. The building for the warehouse of 5700 square meters is instead isolated, has the main front facing the parking lot – of 3000 square meters with 180 parking spaces for visitors and employees – and is accessible on the entire perimeter from vehicles.
In the open courtyard, in addition to a plane tree, a mulberry tree, an oak and an ash tree, there are four large circular LED lighting fixtures, 3 meters high and with diameters ranging from 7 to 9 meters, made to design, which break through as “extraneous” elements in the rigorous and geometric overall design. Three elements define the project: grey asphalt, beige architectural concrete and extensive lawn. Of particular importance is the treatment of the courtyard flooring, which thanks to inserts made with thin strips of Mururè wood replicates a pattern similar to that used for the GRC (Glass Reinforced Concrete) slabs on the facade. The same wood of the inserts is also used – this time in large planks – to finish the seats on the edges of the flowerbeds, real outdoor meeting and rest areas.
Barreca & La Varra architectural studio was founded in 2008 in Milan by Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra. Over the years the studio has acquired national and international prominence by carrying out numerous projects in the field of urban and architectural design, participating in competitions and carrying out public and private assignments for important Italian and foreign groups. Headquarters of important companies, residential and social housing complexes, as well as collective buildings such as hospitals and schools, have received recognition in Italy and abroad. The studio is characterised by constant attention to the experimentation of a complex architectural and urban language, attentive to the changing articulations of contemporary society and the complexity of the economic, social and institutional processes that today produce the city, the territory and the environment, with particular attention to the relationship between architecture and nature.
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