Covering an area of over 290,000 sqm (more than 3 million sq ft) located between Porta Garibaldi, the Isola neighborhood, and the abandoned Porta Nuova rail yard (also known as the ‘Varesine’), the multi-level project is one of Europe’s largest mixed-use urban redevelopments. The project by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects consists of three different buildings situated around Piazza Gae Aulenti. A ring-shaped canopy connects the podiums of the three towers to make it one single body, connecting it to the park and creating a grand gateway to the rest of the city. The most challenging part of the project was making the three buildings communicate with each other and connecting them to the other components provided in the masterplan, such as the residences and parks.
218 m / 715 ft
33 stories tall
This delicate task is accomplished by the building envelope, consisting of a cladding that unifies the towers through moldings and stringcourses that wrap around the sinuous forms and curves of the volumes. The unity of the complex is emphasized by a single ring-shaped canopy that runs around the circumference of the piazza, connecting the podiums of the three towers and bringing the public spaces of the piazza inside the office buildings. The three buildings face the piazza, Towers A (UniCredit Tower), B and C were designed to integrate with the surrounding area, characterized by pre-existing buildings and various other structures. To this end, Tower C, the lowest, was placed on the side with the smaller buildings, Tower B in front of the station and Tower A, the tallest, at 217.7 m (714 ft), towards the park. The entire perimeter follows the circular layout of the lot, with openings at several points. The design and construction of the architectural envelope of the towers and the special elements that distinguish it necessitated the creation of specific innovative solutions that were able to transform the architectural vision into reality, and to combine it with the high performances expected.
The exterior wall has to perform like a F1 race car. It has so many expectations and requirements, but just as you have way too many technical issues, it needs to be beautiful, it needs to be poetic, it needs to stand the test of time
Gregg Jones, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Design & engineering, manufacture and installation of more than 70,000 sqm (753,500 sq ft) of curtain wall and complementary elements, including 48,000 sqm (516,700 sq ft) of curtain wall, 16,000 sqm (172,200 sq ft) of ventilated rain-screen stone cladding, 6,000 m (19,700 ft) of horizontal sunshading fins, 5,000 sqm (53,800 sq ft) of stick system façade, 3,000 sqm (32,300 sq ft) of false ceiling and 1,000 m (3,300 ft) of stainless steel parapets.
One project in three
The envelope of the three towers includes different types of curtain walls and complementary elements that together cover a total surface area of more than 70,000 sqm (753,500 sq ft) with glass façades, ventilated stone façades, sunshades and a series of complementary elements. The buildings are clad in reflective glass and have narrow, curved forms.
The main cladding that distinctly characterizes the appearance of the sinuous and enveloping volumes develops above the public strip, and consists of a system of prefabricated units with a packaging thickness of only 18 cm (7 1/8”). The unit type has dimensions equal to 1.5 x 4.075 m (5 x 13.4 ft), the size of the inter-floor axis. It comprises four glass elements, three of which are visual and one spandrel in correspondence with the floors, and aluminum profiles. Each unit was conceived as an independent module, including the frame, glass and accessories. The design and customization of the components allowed the façade solution to deliver excellent thermal, light and acoustic performances.
The façades of the internal concave areas are distinguished from the external convex areas due to the type of glass, which is more reflective on the outside to enhance the shape of the buildings and less reflective on the inside to allow a better interaction between the offices and their occupants and the piazza. Moreover, the presence of the protruding sunshading fins marks the succession of the floors, which vary in depth depending on the building and create games of light and shadow on the glass surface. The horizontal fins consist of modular elements protruding from the outer edge of the glass. They are placed at the intermediate crosspiece of each floor and extend for an overall length of 6 km (3.7 mi).
Spiraling upward from the south face of Tower A is a 70 m (230 ft) cone-shaped spire. A distinctive feature of the entire complex, it is the only element visible from above, looking at Milan on foggy days. It is made of a stainless steel structure covered with perforated metal sheet that has a technological function, despite the reduced curvature of the plan: it connects to the building through a cell façade that has the same 1.5 m (5 ft) width as standard modules. The lower part of the spandrel zones of these units are fitted with LEDs that allow constant night lighting and can take on different colors depending on the recurrence.
The opaque envelope features a ventilated stone façade positioned at the blind area of the stairwells making up the core of each block, and covers the side heads of each building. This solution meets several fundamental requirements and performances aimed at improving living comfort and is characterized by a typical module consisting of a granite slab measuring 1.2 m (4 ft) by 0.56 m (2 ft). The type of stone, color yield and strength characteristics, as well as the choice of glass types, were the aspects that required the greatest coordination and collaboration in order to define the optimal choices approved by the client and architect.
The podium features exclusive stores that see Piazza Gae Aulenti as the natural extension of Corso Como with numerous high-end retail stores. The clear and transparent surfaces of the windows are framed and enhanced by the stainless steel cladding of the aluminum structure with attention paid to every detail. Around 3,000 sqm (32,300 sq ft) of retail façades was built for this unique portion of the building, in addition to glass and steel façades for the entrances (bolted glass façade where the glass is suspended, anchored at fixed points), more than 200 special doors in steel and glass, stone clad, and revolving doors, with stainless steel and stone cladding for the columns and 3,000 sqm (32,300 sq ft) of false ceiling with wooden and aluminum slats. Moreover, the project required the study and realization of some very unique elements, such as 1,000 m (3,300 ft) of completely customized stainless steel parapets with different shapes according to their position on the façade and the functionality of the spaces behind. Finally, at the plaza level, in correspondence with the spire of Tower A, a circular canopy has been developed: it is made up of screen-printed laminated glass anchored to painted steel structures using stainless steel spider fittings.
Three building towers: Tower A, 33 stories; Tower B, 23 stories; Tower C, 12 stories
Tallest building in Italy
7,654 customized glass façade units
51,000 stone elements
750 t (1.65 million lb) of aluminum
6 km (3.7 mi) of sunshades
1 km (0.62 mi) of fully-customized stainless steel parapets
DEVELOPER: Hines Italia SGR (now Coima SGR)
ARCHITECT: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
EXECUTIVE ARCHITECT: Adamson Associates Architects
CONTRACTOR: Colombo Costruzioni S.p.A.
Installation was a highly difficult exercise in terms of logistics and storage of the materials that were delivered on site. Given the limited availability of storage areas, in most cases we had to proceed directly with the installation. Installation took up about 15 of the 21 months planned for the duration of the project. It was important to create a close and collaborative team and to effectively coordinate the needs of the different realities involved in the construction, which resulted in meeting the deadlines and achieving the objectives set.
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