Milan || Italy
The new Siemens HQ in Milan, which opened its doors in March 2018, was built on a site where the multinational already had an office building, which was known as the “Leonardo” Building. This part of North-eastern Milan, formerly home to a strip of suburban industrial sites, is located near the edge of another area set for a major reconversion of abandoned industrial premises: the town of Sesto San Giovanni.
As part of the company’s strategy of “humanizing” its workplaces, environments, rooms and offices by naming them after leading lights in the sciences, innovation and creativity, the new building is named the “Galileo” Building. The company’s approach is a symbolic acknowledgement of the contribution these people have made to scientific and technical knowledge, drawing a link between today’s working environment and the historical path of progress. The substantial site houses a large number of people: the urban facilities envisaged under the town plan and the site space management plan include sports amenities, parking spaces, open green areas, and a future urban park.
The intrinsic value of a site that opens itself up to the city is apparent right from the far-reaching significance of its underlying concepts: reformulating the workspace in relation to the city; pursuing architectural principles to generate dialogue between the elements of sustainability, rational design and construction-related processes; and the consequent wellbeing of the resulting spaces. That the building forges a new relationship with the city is evident from an early, symbolic choice: at the very start of on-site work, a huge Daniel Libeskind sculpture (“Ali”) was installed outside the entrance to the office building.
One of four that Siemens commissioned Libeskind to create for the 2015 Milan International Expo, this and the other sculptures were originally sited within the Expo perimeter, at the junction between the Cardo and the Decuman avenues. The work generates recognizable value as a monumental “urban” addition. By embracing its function as signage and conveying visual meaning, art allows the surrounding open space to be perceived and experienced as a space we can use, traverse, and generally make available to the public. Architecture is a pro-active participant in this innovative process, both from the standpoint of the project’s rationality and how the interior space has been divided up.
Adopting the new conception of work Siemens espouses, the company strives to focus on the value of interpersonal relations by structuring work and interior space in a less hierarchical way. The handling and growth of wellbeing in internal spaces (as a broad concept) is a corollary to this leading-edge approach, through careful use of natural materials and a connotation of environments that tend to unify the concepts of familiarity and space functionality. This approach continues outside the complex, where sports facilities are on offer for urban-scale use. The new headquarters project follows the plot’s rectangular shape in a logical conformation and progression.
The building tends towards linearity and simplicity, its façade characterized by a horizontal progression that bears out the general approach of avoiding hierarchical accents in the complex’s volumetric conformation. The resulting building is a paean to regularity in design. For the most part, the building presents four floors above ground, plus a one-floor basement. It is built out of reinforced concrete. The façades are geometrically-defined and regular. These compositional criteria foster optimal control of factors such as solar exposure, thermal load and natural lighting of internal spaces via active and passive systems.
On the ground floor, the façade is predominantly divided up into transparent portions, triggering a relief-based relationship between interior and exterior. Opaque zones of dark grey grès create variation in the façade’s layout. Horizontal bands prevail on the upper floors, with a hallmark linear correlation between the opaque zones – manifesting the building’s horizontality – and the interspersed, variable rhythm of the glazed zones, which also feature full-height elements near the corners to add dynamism. Set between the southern and eastern prospects, the corner entrance enjoys a relationship with the external sculpture. A subtraction of volumes from the building carves out a landmark that is also a transitional zone, open and yet protected by an overhanging canopy. Flow regulation, reception, orientation and waiting are all concentrated in the entrance space, an environment where the design is characterized by elegant, welcoming and soft forms. These characteristics impact how the working space on the upper floors is organized in different ways: wide open tracts of multifunction floorspace stimulate interpersonal relations and sharing, supplemented by “private” confidential office space and meeting rooms. The internal space has been arranged to integrate the company’s guiding principles, the architectural project and Lombardini22’s planning work. The northern elevation presents a marked volumetric distribution. The new Siemens HQ complex is a large E-shaped building, with a regular volume of four floors above ground, integrated by two linked buildings which can be used as conference space, be internally divided in other ways and used a canteen. This design approach adds two internal green courtyards, a space further enhanced though an “organically-conformed” design, highlighting correlations between the interior and exterior at ground floor level, and creating a refined place for exchange and interchange in this expression of leading-edge office building architecture and design.
Client: Siemens Spa Real Estate
Completion Date: February 2018
Gross Floor Area: 15.500 m2
Architect: Barreca & La Varra
Design Team: Claudio Barborini, Chiara Capponi, Luigi Tambuscio
Main Contractor: Impresa Percassi
Structural: Milan Ingegneria
Services: United Consulting
LEED: Deerns Italia
Fire System and Safety: Studiogamma
Green Design: AG&P greenscape
Interior Design: DEGW
Interior Flooring, Exterior Cladding: Cotto d’Este
Interior Cladding: Mirage
Electrical Fittings: Milani, Elettromeccanica Galli
Plant Equipment: Gianni Benvenuto
Photography: © Carola Merello