Park Associati: contemporary tradition

by Alessandra Coppa

The new studio in Via Garofalo in Milano, a large open space shared by a team of around twenty people, has the relaxed atmosphere of a laboratory of ideas, “open to a wide range of concepts and visions”.
Founded by Filippo Pagliani and Michele Rossi, Park Associati brings together the best of the old and the new schools. With its multidisciplinary approach, it works on various project scales, from a lamp to an office complex, from a multifunctional tower to a residential building. The practice develops ideas that originate from the context itself, seeking new technological, functional and formal experimentation in harmony with the environment. Its ability to cope with design complexity at every stage of the project opens up new compositional possibilities, where architecture, technology and materials create ever new spatial solutions in a constant dialogue with the location.

The projects combine Filippo and Michele’s two different visions as a sum of participatory processes.
We see projects as a world to be investigated and narrated in different ways. For this reason it is vital to keep constantly abreast of the latest developments in knowledge and construction practice and to promote dialogue and discussion.

Is this the philosophy that enables you to work on both the urban and the architectural scales, from tertiary projects to production buildings, from residential to design?
Michele Rossi and I have always tried to avoid the concept of specialisation, preferring to follow clearly defined directions typical of those that emerged as the dominant trend in early 2000. We were keen to adopt a more open and cross-sectoral vision in order to concentrate on various project scales, from urban planning through to architecture and design.
For this reason we have followed in the footsteps of our teachers from the modern movement, a tradition described as “from the spoon to the city”. As a result, we are now highly dynamic and able to operate on various scales and types of projects, from new-build architecture through to homes and corporate headquarters, one of the most dynamic and rapidly evolving areas in recent years. The other field we work in is that of renovation of “modern” Milanese post-war buildings. The reuse of buildings from the 1950s to the 1980s is becoming a very important and topical field of research. These are manufacturing buildings that now require a complete overhaul because the world of production has changed and the demands of large groups have evolved in terms of the quality of construction. Unlike these highly energy-intensive buildings, the trend today is towards buildings with the lowest possible levels of consumption.

You worked on the Campari building, designed in 1962 by Ermenegildo and Eugenio Soncini in the heart of Milan, finding solutions to the various issues of integration into a complex historical fabric. How did you carry through the restyling project?

La Serenissima, or the former Campari building, is strategically located in Via Turati in the historic centre of Milan. It is close to many important buildings, near Ca’ Brutta by Muzio, opposite the Permanente museum, between buildings by Ponti. As a historic building designed by the Soncini brothers in the early sixties, it has some very interesting features that were revealed when we cleaned and stripped it down to the bare skeleton. In particular, it has a bridge structure resting on the external perimeter of the building, without intermediate columns. However, this structure had given rise to a very severe problem of thermal bridging over the years and the energy losses had become unsustainable.

How did you solve this problem in such a way as to respect the identity of the building while introducing major changes in terms of image?
The first step was to analyse the façade as a key element for regenerating the building and giving it new life. So we designed a system that would be set back by 35 centimetres with respect to the original façade, creating a musical score-like motif that would inject a new sense of rhythm into the façade. The design choice enabled us to recover 360 square metres of useful space on the ground floor.

For the U27 Nestlé Building, scheduled to be opened in mid April, you adopted an analytical approach to the complex system of access routes to the area of Milanofiori Nord. You also focused on the context in terms of pedestrian routes and roads, climatic factors and the search for effective integration of the building into the overall Masterplan. Was this project inspired by the location?
We found ourselves in the presence of a kind of micro city. Milanofiori Nord is a highly complex location made up of residential and commercial buildings and a public square. When interacting with such a complex fabric, the access systems to the building take on a vital role.
The Nestlé building is quite unique. The client wanted a completely transparent glass building with closed courtyards, a kind of campus or protected space for 1600 people. This threw us a little, but it also served as a stimulus enabling us to push glass technology to its limits. Analysing the potential of this material, we discovered that it was possible to construct a building using glass with different characteristics on each of the four sides according to the orientation of the façade. The result was a high-performance triple-glazed building with an energy coefficient entirely comparable to that of a solid wall.
In the internal courtyards, glazed suspended bridges are used to connect the various parts of the complex. Taking the idea of a campus, we asked ourselves how we could break away from the form of a courtyard building. So we began to split it up into volumes based on 11 metre steps and to raise it as though it were suspended, with a terracotta plinth that breaks up the base structure.

High tech in equilibrium with the environment, context and function: how is this concept expressed in your projects? How do you integrate tradition, innovative materials and technology?
Our approach rejects neither the old nor the new.
In the old we always find an indelible trace of the construction, but of course we belong to the contemporary world. We believe that research into materials and new technologies drives an innovative vision. When we work in Milan, we always feel the powerful influence of the architecture of the great masters of the 1950s, perhaps due to our own personal imprinting. However, we continue to be very curious  about new construction technologies and new materials.

Have you ever used ceramics?
Ceramics have always been associated with interiors.
Today the sector is undergoing staggering development and rapid technological and industrial transformations. But we have never experimented with this material. In recent years we have worked with three main types of materials. The first, aluminium, is a material that has enabled us to express ourselves to the full, and was used on the Salewa building, the Serenissima and the Cube. The second is glass, a material that we have experimented with extensively. It is transparent but affords highly effective protection to a building.
Recently we have also used covering materials from the classical tradition such as terracotta, but in an innovative way.
The Nestlé building represents a dialogue between terracotta and glass, two materials that interact directly, one bound to the earth and the other free in space.

Founded in 2000 by Filippo Pagliani and Michele Rossi, Park Associati is an architectural design practice that operates on a wide range of project scales. In the complex and rapidly evolving field of urban spaces, the practice carries out large-scale projects in the tertiary, manufacturing and residential sectors. Another important area of activity is that of design and interior design, to which it devotes meticulous attention. A few of the practice’s latest projects include the new Nestlé headquarters in Assago (Milan), remodelling of the La Serenissima office building in Milan, the travelling restaurant entitled The Cube by Electrolux, the new Salewa headquarters in Bolzano, the residential complex in Azzate (Varese) and the refurbishment of the Gioiaotto building, currently under construction. The practice is also creating a new international store concept for the Italian fashion company Brioni. Design projects include the recent Ibla suspension lamp produced by Zumtobel and a series of new products (tables and chair) for Driade.