Torre Velasca rediscovered
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Torre Velasca rediscovered

With the scaffolding now coming down, the Milan skyscraper shows its original colors

Asti Architetti

Torre Velasca rediscovered
By Editorial Staff -

Little by little, the close web of scaffolding and sheeting that has kept Torre Velasca caged for months is coming away. The tower, a symbol of Milan’s skyline since the 1950s, is being unveiled, revealing once again its original iridescent colors, which change with the light from pink to gray. Work to remove the scaffolds began just a few days ago and will continue until the end of September.

Designed after World War II by BBPR (the initials of architects Gian Luigi Banfi, Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti, and Ernesto Nathan Rogers, who set up the studio in 1932), this 348-foot (106 m) tall skyscraper went for over sixty years without any renovation, restoration, or significant maintenance work. This was only begun very recently, with a project drafted by architect Paolo Asti’s studio Asti Architetti, which focuses on respecting the building’s original design. To date, the project has taken over 24 months of planning and 18 months of work, along with material analyses and the study of historical documents. And the studio reports that work is still yet to be completed. The scaffolding should be off all four sides of Torre Velasca by late September, while work inside the building – also to the project by Asti Architetti – should be finished by 2023. Both inside and out, the project is based on respect for the original building and the intentions of the original architects:

“For most of my career, I’ve worked on existing buildings within the incredibly multilayered setting of Milan’s historical center,” says Paolo Asti. “My work always begins with an existing building, and, in this case, that existing building expresses the very essence of Milan’s architectural (and not only) rebirth after World War II. It’s a huge responsibility that fills me with pride as well as inspiration to return this jewel to the city in all its original splendor.”

 

Interior and exterior work

Torre Velasca, Asti Architetti ©Giacomo Albo, courtesy of Hines Italy

Completed in 1958 with no restoration work carried out since then, Torre Velasca’s façade deteriorated over the years, with the beauty of its unusual, shifting colors lost when the current restoration began. The team responsible for restoring the façade’s original colors comprises Asti Architetti; engineering firm CEAS, responsible for restoring the façades; the Milan authority for archaeology, fine arts, and landscape; and development manager Hines. The work has involved scientific analyses of the plaster, field studies, research of historical documentation, and tracking down evidence to restore all the different elements that make up the façade. The plaster identified was analyzed by Mapei to create a specially developed binder (dubbed the Velasca binder) and restore the building’s unusual original pink-gray color. The restoration of the façades, however, wasn’t just aesthetic and architectural, with structural consolidation also required.

The treatment of the interiors reveals similar respect for the original, preserving the same sense of functionality and sequence of retail, office, and residential areas with balconies. But the project also focuses on improving sustainability, safety, and livability.

 

A short history of Torre Velasca

Torre Velasca, Asti Architetti ©Giacomo Albo, courtesy of Hines Italy

Designed by BBPR, Torre Velasca was built in the 1950s in the center of a large area of established residential buildings that were almost completely lost in the bombings of 1943. Its construction came after protracted negotiations with the local government over town planning regulations, with the tower as we see it today becoming a symbol of the city and its square. The building’s distinctive shape certainly contributed to its iconic status. Often described as “mushroom shaped,” it comprises a lower section punctuated by alternating chiaroscuro surfaces and windows, with a seven-story upper crown, supported by projecting piers. At the base of the tower and opening onto the plaza is a covered walkway that forms an integral part of the original design that’s furnished with elements specially designed at the time by BBPR, including trachyte stone benches that complement the dark amaranth shade of the metal lampposts.

 

A tradition revived: in Paolo Asti’s own words

Torre Velasca, Asti Architetti ©Andrea Cherchi, courtesy of Asti Architetti

“The project centers on the overall image of the tower, identifying the functions requested by the client, with a special focus on defining the building, its typology, and the architectural features of the offices and homes inside,” continues Paolo Asti. “These different aspects were all addressed by BBPR and then fine-tuned relative to one other. Each unit is different from the next, including both offices and homes, as are the retail units on the lower floors. This reflects the compositional variety of the façades, the design of the interiors, the layouts, the relationship between inside and outside, the fixed furnishings, and the finishes and colors.”

Credits

Location: Milano, Italy
Architects: Asti Architetti
Owner and developer: Hines Italy
Façade: CEAS
General plant: ESA Engineering
General Contractor: Ars Aedificandi – Villa d'Adda (BG)
Renovation Façade: Gasparoli – Gallarate (VA)
Suppliers: Mapei (legante Velasca)
Photography by Andrea Cherchi and Giacomo Albo, courtesy of Asti Architetti and Hines Italy

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