Fior di Tortona, a Garden of Eden in Milan
Maria Giulia Zunino
Martina Gaiba + Michele Malagoli | MpiùG architetti
Synonymous with the former industrial area located behind the Porta Genova railway station, Milan’s Via Tortona derived the energy for its regeneration from the factories that originally occupied the site, now replaced by locations such as the MUDEC Museum of Cultures, the Armani/Silos exhibition space, BASE Milano, creative firms, offices, fashion and design showrooms, hotels and restaurants.
But at number 31, the courtyard and smokestack of Opificio 31 (the area was occupied by artisans after being bombed in World War II) pay tribute to the area’s history and preserve it for future generations. Mechanical workshops, plant nurseries, event spaces, design and fashion all coexist here.
For three generations, the Del Latte family has cultivated a passion for plants and flowers while maintaining a strong connection with the local area. “Forty years ago, our grandfather bought the warehouse to store the flowers he used to sell at the markets,” says Luca. “Elisa and Paolo then converted it into a workshop and built their home on the upper floor. Nicolò and I are now also part of the team.”
The former warehouse, tucked away inside the courtyard, is now called Fior di Tortona and is a joy to behold.
“We wanted to expand and improve all our areas of operation,” explains Nicolò. “To transform the space, we invited three different architecture firms to submit projects.”
The winner was Martina Gaiba, a thirty-year-old Bologna-based architect who founded MG architettura in 2017 and subsequently MpiùG architetti with Giacomo Gresleri. For this project she brought in her cousin Michele Malagoli, “an architect by trade, landscape architect by passion”, who works in Modena and Rome.
“The common thread running through the project is the dialogue between present and past,” says the architect. “The choice of the flooring plays an essential role in connecting the two adjoining spaces and creating an environment where plants and flowers could be stored while occasionally hosting temporary exhibitions, meetings and alternative shops. We wanted it to be reminiscent of factory floors but at the same time resistant to frequent watering and cleaning.”
“Together with Stepping Stone, a showroom specialising in materials, and guided by MpiuG architetti, we found the perfect solution in Cocoon,” a collection of porcelain tiles with a highly authentic concrete look produced by Ricchetti. Thanks to their large size (120×120 cm) and installation with matching coloured grout, they form a continuous surface on which the Multigrey finish creates a vibrant yet discreet effect.
The ambience is simple but refined, homely and welcoming, and was designed with the utmost attention to detail.
The spine wall has been restored to its original concrete and brick form; the inverted beam uses a technique dating back to 1927; the sage-green walls create a sense of depth; the space for designing gardens or floral displays is reminiscent of a burnished iron and glass greenhouse; the sink is set into a wooden worktop with a copper tap and exposed pipes; the eye-catching steel-clad flower display unit consists of a refrigerated tank with continuous water circulation.
Furniture found at junk shops rubs shoulders with outdoor furnishings and flowerpots designed by the Del Latte family for its customers. And last but not least, the large table allows the nurserymen to work while talking to customers.
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,5%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): B MIN
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 175 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): conforme
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): conforme
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): ≥ 1300 N ( ≥ 7,5 mm)
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): conforme
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): conforme
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): conforme