A new lease of life for Porta Romana
Christian Fenouil (Studio PLACE Milano)
The area around Milan’s Porta Romana railway station is a fragile, peripheral neighbourhood that has been undergoing redevelopment for several years now. It has seen a number of urban regeneration projects — notably that of Fondazione Prada — aimed at giving a new identity to marginal areas of the city and reinventing them as highly appealing places for work and socialisation.
This project created by Milan-based Studio Place was launched with precisely this aim, explained architect Christian Fenouil, one of the four founders of the multidisciplinary practice: «We began with an old abandoned industrial building which originally housed a pharmaceutical company. It is a 1960s sawtooth-roofed reinforced concrete construction but with an original arch-shaped cross-section. The client wanted to transform it into a kind of incubator and co-working space that would help reknit the fabric of the area and revive its development prospects but at the cost of changing the building typology. We didn’t agree. We firmly believed that the first and most important step in a successful redevelopment project is to preserve the nature of the building and maintain the integrity of the architecture.» And that’s what happened. While maintaining the original appearance of the complex, known as «The Hangar» and now the headquarters of a real-estate company, the long factory building with its original rounded sections was given a facelift. Its totally black exterior establishes it as a distinctive, iconic landmark in the neighbourhood, while its white interior creates a bright, airy and comfortable space for the people who work there.
Fenouil adds: «The initial idea was to create a welcoming environment attuned to today’s working needs and methods, particularly in terms of acoustic comfort. The large open-plan space has 80 individual workstations and guarantees privacy thanks to the installation of phone-boxes, acoustically insulated rooms where people can make calls without disturbing colleagues. Moreover, the need to work as a team and share ideas while pursuing more flexible working hours led us to create communal spaces where people would be able to meet, relax or even continue to work while having a coffee.» For this purpose, the designers created a mezzanine area housing a bar, the kitchen and a furnished lounge with sofas and comfortable armchairs. During the warmer months, the space opens out onto a terrace furnished with tables, armchairs and parasols. «Today work can no longer be constrained within rigid confines,» explains Fenouil.
The layout, designed to achieve functionality and the maximum ergonomics, was complemented by a successful choice of colours and materials. «We felt it was important to guarantee both acoustic and visual comfort,» he explained. «For this reason we chose the colour white for the walls and ceiling, opting however for a warm tone (RAL 9010) to avoid glare and to optimise the effect of overhead lighting.» The floor, also pale coloured, consists of porcelain tiles from the Chic Wood collection, Coco version from Panaria Ceramica with distinctive soft veins and calm colours reminiscent of wood. «Porcelain was the obvious choice as no other material guarantees the same levels of functionality, durability and slip resistance in full compliance with workplace regulations. At the same time the material has the natural look associated with physical well-being and strongly contemporary aesthetics and size (the extra-large 20×120 cm rectified plank format with its 10 mm thickness is ideally suited to the layout of the open space).
The pure white designer furnishings (custom-design tables and ergonomic armchairs) lend a sense of consistency to the entire project.
Panaria Ceramica, Chic Wood
20x120 cm spessore 10 mm
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0,05%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): ULA UHA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): 145 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10 Naturale R11 EXT 10 mm - 20 mm
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant