Francesco Pagliari || Francesco Pagliari
AB Medica sits at the cutting edge of innovation in specialist medical and surgical technology, including robotic surgery. The design for the new Cerro Maggiore headquarters, located in an industrial area along the Milan-Varese highway, had to portray the company's innovative, dynamic nature (even in its approach to research), without forgoing functional architecture, technical and energy performance, necessary installations and interior user comfort.
The basic volume recalls a streamlined prism with pre-coated aluminum cladding and an elongated triangular layout. Even at a glance, the exterior façades suggest the complexity of the partitions and help convey, especially through the shapes, a sense of "speed" that refers not only to the architectural design, but also the rapidity with which the company conceives and develops ideas, and innovates. The façades are characterized by slender, clearly distinct shapes that create the dominant effect for the building, juxtaposing the material, solid nature of the plaster sections with ventilated façades, and the portions covered in coated expanded meshes with windows and glazing.
The construction restrictions created by the buffer area between the complex and the highway, and the limits of the buildable area resulted in a focal point that became the nucleus for this dynamic architectural vision and the internal composition. Inside, functionality and the relations between elements define the appearance.
The three floors are elegantly split into spaces for the laboratories - a fundamental for such a company -, storage - a sizeable double-height space on the ground floor -, offices, meetings rooms, a conference hall, a canteen, breakout spaces and utility services.
The entrance foyer is at the heart of all movement and the architectural vision. The reception counter is against one of the side walls, emphasizing the functional purpose, and the resulting space extends vertically for the full three floors. The stairs to the upper floors, protected by glazed parapets as they cling to the concrete panel walls, are key to the perception of the foyer, bringing intrinsic quality that dominates this space and suggests an elegant, light pathway.
Light is important in the offices and working areas, so these smaller spaces are separated from each other using glazed partitions. On the top floor, the large office areas receive light from two triangular openings in the roof that also create room for patios adorned with plants.
The Tagliamento valley opens into a broad alluvial plain that is home to the Rivoli industrial area, setting for the Fantoni campus, in the Osoppo municipality. Inspired by the American university campus approach, this industrial plant rises against a backdrop of the Carnic and Julian Alps. The site was developed progressively, mirroring the company's growth and allowing the overall project to evolve within the framework of the long-running partnership between Fantoni and the Valle architecture practice.
The buildings were built in different periods, producing an atemporal effect in which each addition influences the appearance and perception of the campus in a constant, organic process of change without any overarching plan. The result is a harmonious combination of different, interacting structures that become a sort of "archaeology of change" in which the company's past and present merge successfully.
The most recent work by the Valle architecture practice was to design a new building, called Plaxil 8, for the MDF panel production line, replacing the old Plaxil 4 and Plaxil 5 lines. Housing the longest press in Europe, the building seems almost out of scale, recalling the first production lines of early industrial buildings.
At 300 m long and 28 m wide, it covers around 8,500 sq.m. with an average height of 14.5 m, although the highest point is 50 m, on the western side.
The imposing construction, built with a steel frame, has a single 28 m span created using a roof truss. However, perhaps the most unusual aspect is that the building and the machinery share a load-bearing structure. This equates to complete integration between the manufacturing line and the edifice, an amalgamation of architecture and engineering in which the structural skeleton, including the installations, is literally visible inside.
Outside the effect is quite different, as the horizontal development culminates in a metallic tower housing various levels of molding machinery.
Each in its own shade of grey, the four types of cladding on the exterior - expanded mesh, ribbed metal sandwich panels, and smooth and profiled pre-cast concrete - create a striped effect that emphasizes the overall linearity. The flat roof is covered with reflective, ribbed metal panels that lead onto the sloping roof up to the parallelepiped tower that, covered in expanded mesh, permits glimpses of the interior.
The northern façade has simple lines, only broken by the effect of the cladding and a single line of windows, with the regular projecting cubes marking the entrances. The southern façade is different, characterized by the curving lines of tubes entering and exiting the building.
The visual power of the geometric shapes and actual volumes is offset through the use of envelope textures, with the transparency of the metallic cladding helping to dematerialize the structure. Overall, the architectural composition is characterized by a depth of planes and perspectives.
Location: Cerro Maggiore, Milan province
Client: AB Medica
Gross Floor Area: 9,000 m2
Architect: Giuseppe Tortato
Art Directors: Giuseppe Tortato, Giorgia Celli
Project Manager: Giorgia Celli
Design Team: Giorgia Celli, Elena Fantoni, Matteo Noto (Parametric design)
Interior Design: Cristina Sipala
Executive Project: Stefano Niccoli, A&I Progetti
Works Management: A&I Progetti
Main Contractor: GDM Costruzioni, Intercantieri Vittadello
Structural: Massimo Toni, A&I Progetti
Plants: Studio Planning
Doors and Window Frames: Schüco, IALC serramenti
Furniture and Fittings: Barth Innenausbau
Flooring: Marazzi Group, Liuni, Listotech
Insulation: Sto Italia
Heating System: Climaveneta
Photography: © Maurizio Montagna
Courtesy Giuseppe Tortato
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