Frigoriferi Milanesi, Milan
Transformation of the Frigoriferi Milanesi
MILAN (IT) - The completion of a building on via Piranesi marks the first stage in the conversion of a vast refrigerated warehouse complex to a design by Genoa-based architects 5+1.
Italy, Milan, Porta-Vittoria in the south-eastern part of the city:
1899: Parasols and bicycles, women in fur coats promenading with men in hats. And Frigoriferi Milanesi, a cool storage facility built that year to produce ice and provide refrigerated storage for foodstuffs.
1923: The Frigoriferi Milanesi company builds the adjoining Ice Palace, which is to remain the biggest indoor skating rink in Europe for a long time.
1950: The Second World War is over and the area is flourishing anew. The refrigerator storage rooms are converted into armoured and air-conditioned rooms for keeping valuables and specially adapted for the storage of paintings, antiquities, ceramics, sculptures, tapestries and carpets.
2005: Approaching from the Porta Vittoria railway station along via Piranesi, one catches sight of a building projecting slightly from the other facades, with glass planes in different shades of bright red that reflect and are reflected by the buildings around them. That is all that remains of the nineteenth-century complex. The Ice Palace, to the great disappointment of the locals, has been closed to make way for Open Care, the first company in Europe offering turnkey solutions for the management, enhancement and conservation of art treasures. It aims to provide the city of Milan and its inhabitants with public premises where art can continue to be conserved, produced and enjoyed.
Genoa-based 5+1 architects are in the process of realizing their design for the site. The overall project encompasses three volumes – the former Ice Palace, the Frigoriferi Milanesi building and an elongated building facing via Piranesi – and a fourth space (the strongroom of Frigoriferi Milanesi) located in the basement below the first two buildings.
To date only the strongroom and the elongated building have been completed. The latter's 100-metre-facade on via Piranesi has a simple, and in some respects, even banal form, but its brilliant colours make it an eye-catcher and a landmark signalling the location of the complex as a whole. Its glass planes of different shades of red excite the interest and curiosity of passers-by. The lower part of the building consists of a strip of simple, untreated grey plasterwork that changes above into wedges of glossy and bright red glass, in various dimensions and intensity. Inside, black predominates, continuing all the way down to the strongroom area in the basement, an underground space of 1500 m2, through ramps that gradually change into white spaces, whose light and brightness make the entire foyer comfortable.
The completed structure is part of a larger project. The conversion of the former Ice Palace and the Frigoriferi Milanesi building, which together cover an area of 22,000 m2, will be realized at a later stage. The Frigoriferi building, with its nineteenth-century vaulted roof, will be renovated and become a venue for cultural events. The facade on the Porta Vittoria side will feature a system of passages, stairs, promenades, balconies and terraces stretching from the basement to the top floor. The former Ice Palace will serve as multi-purpose space for events and entertainment, and will include a restaurant, a foyer and a bar, all of which will overlook a larger, central space. The project will meet an urgent demand for facilities, giving this part of Milan a more central role and providing a city that is already rich in events and venues with a new location for cultural activities and socializing.
5+1 has created what may be defined as an almost nocturnal architecture characterized by bright colour and a luminosity that illuminates both the surroundings and the visitors. The architects play with the existing structures, creating a mixture of old and new, nineteenth-century iron details and high-tech elements, contrasts that incorporate the past, images of a bygone Milan that are reflected and projected on the new building, in a dialogue between historical and contemporary, existing and new. Their difficulty lies in having to close a venue (the Ice Palace) that attracted a large public and played a crucial role in the neighbourhood. Their challenge is to create a new venue that people will be able to identify with. Perhaps their reason for choosing such an intense and warm colour as the bright red is that it livens up the surroundings, thawing the frosty ice.
September | 2005 | Italy | Daria Ricchi