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Project in Detail

Universita Luigi Bocconi

Milano, Italy
Grafton Architects, Dublin 2, Ireland
World Architecture Festival 2008 - World Building of the Year

Elevation on Viale Bligny 
Federico Archivio Brunetti 

Our Milan.
In order to make a building which connects with it’s place, we believe that one has to take a kind of ownership of that place, let it get under the skin so to speak, get comfortable with it …make it your own.

So when we came to look at the competition site in 2001, in October, we tried to find ‘Our Milan’
We found a city of hard exteriors and friendly interiors.
We stepped from a noisy street into a lush courtyard with an aviary.
Small observations led to big moves. We observed the stone floor of the city, the rugged solid geological walls of the city, challenging, heroic.
It was a misty, foggy October day , when time stands still with no light or shade to tell you the time of day.; a strange still atmosphere when buildings disappear.
We thought about how a building could exert it’s presence even this kind of light

Before…. things in the air….

We came with sketches in our pockets, we came with our baggage and preoccupations.
Before our site visit we had tried to find the grain of the site;
We had thought about making a continuous landscape, a ‘groundscape’, which would connect the university with the city, cutting and carving this landscape to accommodate the required 25,000 sq.m of underground spaces.
We wanted no datum…..no visual boundary between the public world of the university below and the private world of 1000 offices, 20,000m2, above

We had thought about the offices forming a great perforate roof, a ‘skyscape’ below which the life of the ‘open university’ could exist.
We were interested in the potential of large scale ‘infrastructural type’ structures which release space, not just at the scale of the building but also at the scale of the city.

And then we met the city , and the city met us.

We were humbled and challenged by the heritage of the heroic Bocconi buildings by Pagano and Muzio and Gardella.
Viale Bligny accosted us with it’s grittiness.

We observed in the streets the rigour and tautness of the Asnage and Vender buildings, the free loose compositions of Caccia Dominioni buildings, the challenging presence of the Torre Valasca ,but most of all, twenty minutes walk from Bocconi, the expressive deconstructed urban block by Moretti on Corso Italia.
We looked to Il Broletto, as the metaphor for what a university could be …. a place of exchange.
We looked to the roof of the Duomo, a revelation for us, where people move through the buttresses and galleries and gutters and gargoyles with a real sense of theatre, removed from the city below but always connected to the city
A metaphor for our skyskape, our office world which hovers over the city..

We meet the city ..we observe small things

Around the corner from this site on Piazzale di Porta Ludovica, on Via Lusardi, are buildings made of local stone, Beola and Ceppo.
They sit solid on the ground with heavy bases and plinths.
They have a rustic quality which we have not seen before in an urban setting, except for Peter Celsing’s Bank of Sweden in Stockhom
They have a monolithic quality because the stone is fixed directly to the substructure, with tiny joints.
The stone is worked, carved, lapped with a real sense of weight.
In Milan stone is used on the floor of the city. Sometimes the same stone as on the façade….
This is why we used this local Ceppo on the external walls and ground floor of the building.

What things / preconceptions stayed the same

On our visit we see that this city is full of ‘big urban spaces…we wanted make another one…this city has beautiful rooms…la Scala, Stazione Centrale,….we wanted to make another one….
We see that we really should make a space at the scale of the city.
That we should make the university as a great place of exchange, like Il Broletto.
So in our design the public rooms make a carved ‘groundscape’, forming ramped and sunken courts.
The offices are inhabited light filters;beams of space which create a great roof to the public spaces.
The large scale structure at 25m intervals releases spaces at the scale of the city.
The offices are hung from enormous roof beams.
The soffit levels of the offices rise and fall to compress or release the public space below.
Our strategy was to make what Kenneth Frampton calls ”the university as a city in miniature”

What things/ preconceptions changed

The city is rugged, robust defensive solid, we wanted to make a building like this.
We have never made a building like the Bocconi building.
We would never have thought of making a building like this except in Milan.Half the building carved out of the ground, virtually no windows on the outside and a myriad of sunken and suspended courtyards inside.
Solid ‘ceppo’ walls to the city, this hard stone, “a geological concrete”.
We fix the stone directly to the substructure, so that the ceppo walls have a weighty monolithic quality. We wanted this building to feel like a piece of Milan, not an import.

A window to Milan.
In our early sketches we had the Aula Magna for 1000 people embedded in the plan.
We moved it right to the most public corner the site, even though this is the noisy corner. We saw that this important university should have a strong architectural presence on this, the most public street.
This was a big move for us and was a key moment in the design.
We took courage from Moretti and exposed the form of the Aula Magna with it’s periscope forms which stitch up into the offices
The window to the sunken foyer forms “an enormous Chinese lantern, attracting the metropolitan populous through the failing light of a Milanese evening” (Kenneth Frampton rt 14)
We gave the university a window to Milan.

Lead Architect »

Grafton Architects
Dublin 2

Professional Credits »

Acoustics Consultant
Mr Paolo Molina
Arpservice P. Molina

Mr Enrica Rabuffetti
Studio Rabuffetti

Client / Developer
Mr Nicolo' Di Blasi
Universita? Luigi Bocconi

Cost Consultant
Tim Gatehouse Associates
United Kingdom

Environmental Engineer
Mr Luigi Amman
AMMAN Progetti

Environmental Engineer
Mr Klaus Bode
BDSP Partnership
United Kingdom

Facade Engineer
Mr Sean Billings

Interior Designer
Mr Dante Bonuccelli
Avenue Architects

Lighting Consultant
Mr Claudio Valent

Main Contractor
GDM Costruzioni

Project Manager
Mr Marco Ferrario
Progetto CMR

Structural Engineer
Mr Emilio Pereira
RFR (France)

Supplier / Product Credits »

Cladding stone
Ceppo di gre'
Marini Marmi

Glass facade system
Permasteelisa Group

Self-compacting concrete
Unical - Buzzi Unicem