The plan to relaunch one of the symbolic buildings of Milan: Torre Velasca gets a €70 million renovation.
The Italian insurance group Unipol has sold the Torre Velasca to the U.S. real estate group Hines. The deal worths 220 million euros, of which 150 million for the acquisition of the building and the rest for the renovation work, including a redevelopment of the surrounding square. Since the 1950s some functional needs have changed, but the Velasca Tower can still respond to the needs of an evolving metropolis such as Milan. The renovation project, however, must have the go-ahead from the Superintendency of Cultural Heritage: since 2011, the tower was placed under protection as a historic building.
TORRE VELASCA: TECNHOLOGY VS. HISTORICISM
The Velasca Tower, designed by BBPR, has been one of the most discussed buildings of the end of the 1950s decade. It represented a great icon of ideological transition between those who defended a strict modernism (benchmark the International Style) and the application of technology in construction, and those who on the other hand, were opened to a Regional Modernism; incorporating historic references to the design. The ideals stated by the CIAM in the prewar times (WW2) were completely opposed with this "Neoliberty" icon that still draws an ornamental contour in the skyline of Milan.
TORRE VELASCA: FROM THE DESTRUCTION, A NEW SYMBOL
The Velasca Tower (106 metres high) a symbol of a Milan in its rush towards development and economic growth, expresses all of the strength and Italian Rationalism of the post-war reconstruction years. It was erected in a formerly residential area (destroyed by Anglo-American bombings in 1943), following a long study to adapt the tight spaces of the square that would host it. The architectural style, too, is an expression of the design. Known as "neo-liberty", on the one hand it suggested 19th-century buildings, yet on the other the economic boom of the decade to come.
This all-Italian project established a harmonious relationship with the city's urban profile, soaring aloft with other buildings such as the gothic Cathedral and the Sforza Castle. The upper third of the building, indeed, which protrudes outward from the lower levels, was designed to resemble medieval watchtowers. Such defense towers were used in times of war to protect Italian castles from invasions. The first eighteen floors house stores and offices. The other floors, up to the twenty-sixth, are occupied by apartments, and are larger than the lower floors, giving the tower its characteristic "mushroom" shape.
On most modern buildings, schemes of windows, doors and materials are repeated over and over again. However, on the Torre Velasca numerous patterns were created using empty walls, open windows and reflective glass surfaces where windows would normally be expected. This allowed the building to play to the varied needs of the many people using it. Although the Torre Velasca has been criticized for the building's heavy feeling and for the intricate details that get lost because of it, many people have praised the way in which the tower has managed to connect Milan’s past to its present.
..Norman Foster behind the €4-billion project in north Milan.
The master plan of the former Falck industrial site, in north of Milan, has been entrusted to the architecture firm Foster + Partners. The whole operation - to complete it will take years - is worth about 4 billion euros, financed by Intesa SanPaolo Bank, Prelios and Hines Italia. The first tranche of the work will regard a surface of 250,000 square meters, for an investment of +500 million euros.
The epicenter of the project will be green areas, large as London's Hyde Park, around which there will be residential and commercial functions, hospital and research center, public school and services, hotel, entertainment and more. The area is served by the M1 subway. The first 15,000 inhabitants, who are expected to arrive by 2025, will find a city within the city, totally eco-sustainable.
"The real innovation is to develop a project that goes against inequalities that bridge a market gap between the housing demand and supply for the elderly, students and young families. With a large-scale and long-term project, we'll succeed in developing a high-quality project that has an inter-generational mix" said Mario Abbadessa, CEO for Hines Italia.
"We are going to transform a wound into one of the greatest opportunities to mend the suburbs of Milan", comments Luigi Aiello, Prelios' corporate and business development manager.