by Jerry ElengicalJun 15, 2022
The issue of global climate change, and particularly the damage caused by the built environment on the natural one has been a matter of grave concern for years. While modern architecture beckons a new era in livability, the fact that the construction industry remains one of the biggest contributors to pollution and resource consumption in all forms isn’t lost on the necessarily intertwined design world - especially given that the outlook of the recently concluded Milan Design Week 2022 was geared toward sustainable innovation. Among measures and certifications that “quantify” this sustainable innovation in buildings, the LEED international certification awarded by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) remains among the most sought after and prestigious for buildings. Interestingly so, Milan, the design capital of the world, is known to be among the top five cities globally in this respect, with over 230 buildings that have received the LEED certification.
One such retrofitted project, initially conceived by Pietro Portaluppi in the early 1900s, has gained spotlight due to recent modifications made to the structure’s spatial planning as well as facade design. Brisa 5 on Via Brisa in Milan exhibits an architectural uniqueness through an understated, somewhat obvious, yet well-composed blend of different styles of architecture applied on the building through distinct temporal layers. Brisa 5 is composed of two adjacent blocks with curiously distinguished architectural elements. The first block is three-storeyed and takes from the art nouveau style of architecture, while the modernist style has inspired the five-storied second block.
Furthermore, a recent addition above the first block has a decidedly contemporary character that, by sheer contrast, ends up emphasising the historical elements of the existing two blocks. It is covered by a metal mesh with brass plating on the outside, and black on the inside, creating an untold harmony with similar contemporary structures in Milan, while offering protection from the sun. This added storey doubles up as extra office space for the users. Measures such as incorporating an array of photovoltaic panels placed on the tower's roof, along with the added storey's green roof have aided the building in increasing its thermal mass, thus making the building energy independent and LEED-certified.
The refurbishment of the interiors and the refined interior design scheme is an amalgamation of the modularity of a contemporary space with the elegance, flexibility, and privacy required by such an office building. The entrance and reception areas of both blocks remain independent. Linear furnishings chosen for the entrance halls create an environment that is in harmony with the colours of walls and furniture. Transparency and light remain uncompromised in the offices located in the lower part of the building due to white furnishings, despite offering acoustic privacy. As a tribute to the Milanese designer Portaluppi, the counters are covered in polychromatic marble, which is known to be his favourite material.
As per the architects, "Each of the three contrasting elements that now make up the architectural complex establishes its own boundary that respects the project's history," a comment on the inconspicuous yet distinctive melding of architectural styles and even eras by extension. Previously used as a warehouse, the basement floor beneath the internal courtyard has also been uncovered, creating an appealing new space on the lower ground level overlooking the meeting rooms and showrooms. Further out, in contrast to the white of the courtyard, the tower's rationalist façade basks in the bright grey of the Ceppo di Grè stone, keeping the overall palette neutral - a necessary backdrop for the the added storey to stand out in colour and composition - akin to a gold bar.
As part of Fuorisalone at the Milan Design Week 2022, Brisa 5 was featured among the ‘LEED Buildings in Milan’ walkthrough event, presented by Valcucine, as part of its larger theme: ’Sustainability beyond Space and Time’.
(Text by Navisha Sogani, intern at STIRworld)