Pirelli Tower Restoration | The Plan
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Pirelli Tower Restoration

Renato Sarno | Corvino+Multari

For Gio Ponti, architecture was a crystal: a definite, finished work of art that needed no perfecting. The relationship between architecture and structure was likewise one of crystalline purity, defining what should remain visible, and making inventive use of materials and technology to solve issues of construction and duration. Architecture and structure were an inextricable amalgam. For Ponti, the Pirelli skyscraper (1956-1960), a symbol of modern Milan, exemplified this concept.
Ponti developed his project with Rosselli and Fornaroli, and the Valtolina e Dell’Orto practice, co-opting Nervi and Danusso for the structural aspects. The skyscraper’s architecture was designed to epitomise levity, longevity, stand as a prestigious blend of technology and form, and be new urban landmark – also at night. The sail atop the roof, the ceramic mosaic cladding on the visible structural frame, the aluminium and glazing curtain walls were all formal and technical innovations at the time. The sweeping, pillarless interiors allowing modular spatial distribution were supported by a structural system comprising two pairs of central transversal walls and, on the sides, four, clearly visible, sloping slabs. Headquarters of the Lombardy Regional Authorities from 1978, the building underwent several refurbishments. On April 18, 2002, a small aircraft crashed into the 26th and 27th floors, causing casualties, inflicting severe structural damage and destroying the curtain walls. It was decided that any repairs should not simply replace the beams and radically alter the façades but preserve the original design concepts and materials. Which amounted to a modern architecture restoration project. Commenting on the 2006 Milan Triennale competition for the “Gold Medal for Italian Architecture”, Arata Isozaki described the Pirelli project as “a perfectly executed restoration of a building that remains an example of superior quality architecture – an historic, yet wholly contemporary...

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