Everybody can fly!
Studio Apostoli & Rigamonti
“When there’s a smile in your heart / There’s no better time to start / Think of all the joy you’ll find / When you leave the world behind / And bid your fears good-bye / You can fly, you can fly, you can fly!” These magical words, sung by the Jud Conlon Chorus, are from the soundtrack to Walt Disney’s Peter Pan.
With exactly the same joy, but with the aid some pretty impressive high-tech equipment, today each and every one of us can open our arms and fly. Aero Gravity (to be precise, Fastweb Aero Gravity, thanks to a three-year partnership agreement with the networking giant) is the world’s largest free-fall simulator and has just opened to the public. The futuristic simulator is located in Pero, not far from the stop on the MM1 Metro line, from where you can be whisked into the centre of Milan in a matter of minutes.
Designed by a team of internationally renowned engineers, Aero Gravity represents the state-of-the-art in indoor skydiving, and can simulate a fall from an aeroplane at an altitude of 4,500 metres. The free-fall cylinder is 21 metres high, 8 of which are made from glass. It has a diameter of 5.2 metres, giving a total volume of around 455 cubic metres. The system is powered by six 2,400 horsepower turbines, capable of generating an air flow of up to 370 km/h, sufficient to overcome the force of gravity and keep users airborne as they perform their manoeuvres.
No preliminary training is needed. Expert instructors are on hand to teach beginners how to remain stable in free-fall. After a basic theory session, users can choose to enter the chamber alone, in a group or accompanied by friends. The simulator is open to all, from beginners to experienced parachutists, from the age of 4 up, and also accepts the differently able. Its motto of “Everybody can fly!” was chosen for a good reason!
In architectural terms, the purple envelope of the new Aero Gravity is part of the skyline of the Expo area. Inside, the space is dominated by the simulator’s transparent cylinder. The choice of colours was inspired by the chromatic studies of Austrian architect and scenic designer Joseph Urban (who rose to fame in the United States in the first decades of the 20th century). Sloping elements on the ceiling of the chamber and a meadow-green carpet ensure effective noise reduction inside.
Around the functional nucleus, the Apostoli & Rigamonti architects’ studio, who designed Aero Gravity and directed work on it, chose to cover all floor areas within the simulator itself and in the bar with ceramic tiles from Ceramiche Piemme’s Cottage series. This collection combines the fascination of wood with the affordability of modern porcelain tiles, and comes in a range of finishes and sizes. As the architect Alessio Rigamonti explains: “The wood element completes the framework of materials used in this project. From the collection we chose Elm finish for the warm, natural tone it creates, and used tiles in a 90×22.5 cm strip format. These tiles have the technical characteristics needed to resist the high traffic the simulator and bar areas are subjected to.”
Ceramiche Piemme, Cottage collection
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): compliant
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): compliant
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant