The plan was to revamp this old family house, with a large, trapezoidal garden, on the north-eastern outskirts of Milan and turn it into a complex with 9 apartments across four floors, and a basement parking garage. The housing and building boom of the second half of the 20th century turned this zone into a dense urban periphery, with many of the surrounding buildings rising up higher than the old house. The structure itself was not immune to all this construction work, with porticoes, terraces and balconies added, changing the appearance and leaving an edifice with a rather confused architectural identity that had 'strayed' from the original rigour.
In tackling this revamp, the design had to comply with local building restrictions and overcome the inability to 'shape' the structure because of the lack of space between it and the surrounding buildings. It was also necessary to rethink how the building would be used and lived in. The external limitations (building regulations and lack of space) clearly influenced the shape, but many of the central decisions, where the designer and client had to find solutions, related to the type of future inhabitants. The focus on students, young families and employees in the abundance of local service companies led to the decision that the floor area for each unit should be between 50 to 80 m2. This meant the parking garage had to be on the basement level and the once private, intimate garden was turned into a communal area.
The architectural approach clearly favoured geometrical rigour, but there is also an evident determination to identify the building through the use of space and the organisation of the elevations. While the building regulations had a definite influence on this process because of the need to respect distances and to have windows of certain sizes, they were not the only determining factors. The first step was to give the complex a more geometrical appearance, by removing the external staircase and pulling down any inconsistent additions. This more elegant architectural form is part of the 'regeneration' of the house as a new, improved complex.
For example, demolition of the external staircase made it necessary to add a new block for the stairs on the western side and this gave the building a more rigorous appearance, while also appropriately solving the question of the vertical connections. Such an approach could be termed 'adding and removing to transform'. The original structure was partially hollowed out to improve the views and add balconies, while changing a ground floor wall created a connection between the front and rear sections of the garden. The roof was altered, by adding a double pitch and raising the internal height of the top floor to make it habitable.
The cladding in thin stoneware tiles not only improves the insulation, but also adds nuances, with two shades of grey. The vertical application of these tiles adds to the contemporary,
technological appearance of the structure, while simultaneously alluding to the tradition of ceramic cladding. The overall effect is to give the architecture and volumes a softer feel, adding lightness and elegance.
Location: Milan, Italy
Gross Floor Area: 1,000 m2
Cost of Construction: € 1,200,000 Euros
Architects: Dap Studio - Elena Sacco, Paolo Danelli
Works Management: Paolo Danelli
Structural: Enrico Villa
Technical Systems: Ebner Engeneering
Coverings and Cladding: Cotto D’Este
Photography: © Barbara Corsico
DAP studio is an architectural practice based in Milan from 1992, is hold by Elena Sacco and Paolo Danelli, both graduated at the faculty of Architecture-Politecnico in Milan.
The office works for private customers as well as for public bodies and takes part to competitions.
Researches and activities are carried out at different scales thanks to a multidisciplinary and flexible team structure, able to adapt to the multiple aspects of each project. The work carried out by the studio has so far faced many different aspects of architecture and urbanism: town planning, residential housing, office buildings, leisure and entertainment, landscape architecture...
Our approach to design is based on a constant analysis and control of the relations set by the project and its program. Architecture manifests itself through a continuous process of sperimentation and discovery.
DAP studio places the architectural planning and the development of plans and cultural systems side by side.
Thanks to the synergy with this particular planning sphere, the studio can develop very detailed feasibility studies and preliminary programs for the architectural planning and the masterplan definition.