Church of San Martino in Villapizzone - Milan - ITALIA

Architectural restoration of the Church of San Martino in Villapizzone

A liturgical and functional remodelling project for a parish church
Santino Limonta
Luciano Busani
Ellegi Ceramiche
Year of completion

The church of San Martino in Villapizzone, an old Lombardy village now assimilated into the modern-day city of Milan, has a centuries-long history, during which time it has undergone a series of expansions, renovations and alterations. The façade is now in excellent condition following recent conservative restoration work that also extended to the dome and bell tower. An oval with a fresco of Saint Martin located above the entrance portal enhances its neoclassical lines dominated by pilasters and Corinthian columns. However, as recently as 2014 the church still had an unsatisfactory layout that prompted discussion about possible alternatives. But the projects proposed over the years had proved unconvincing. The turning point came in 2014 when Don Lorenzo Negri asked architect Michele Berutti to take a fresh look at the matter. So what had prevented a solution from being found before then? «Between the 1960s and 1970s, the church was extended along its main longitudinal axis by demolishing the apse and the walls of the transept at one end of the building and creating a new volume with a single nave,» Michele Berutti told us. «The problem was obvious as soon as you set foot in the church: the extended section was more than a metre higher, with seven steps connecting the old and the new naves. Moreover, the presence of large pillars obstructing much of the view between the two volumes effectively meant that the two naves were separate, non-communicating spaces.» Having ascertained that it would be impossible to maintain the unity and functionality of a layout of this kind, the idea of physically separating the two volumes began to gain traction. The construction of a 1:50 scale wooden model proved crucial for understanding the existing spatial organisation and for developing the model proposed by Berutti, which was subsequently adopted. The original and modern volumes were separated by the construction of a more than ten-metre-high wall supported by an iron structure covered on both sides with plasterboard. In both spaces the steps and subfloor were removed down to the concrete. The floors were then restored by applying a levelling layer of just 0.5 mm and installing underfloor heating elements, incorporating everything into a thickness of just 7-8 cm so as to maintain the finished floors at the existing levels. «This result was made possible by the choice of porcelain tile for the floors,» commented the architect. «Pietra Serena sandstone was chosen solely for the rebuilt apse of the Aula Antica for reasons of aesthetic affinity. By contrast, Pietra Valmalenco porcelain tiles from Coem were used on the ramps, hallways, on some of the steps, throughout the entire Modern Nave (except for the Presbytery), in the Sacristy and in the Multifunctional room. To preserve the outstanding architectural value of the Presbytery, the tiles’ rectangular format, the installation method, layout pattern and executive details were all studied in meticulous detail and the measurements were carefully checked to guarantee perfectly aligned joints. The colour and texture were also chosen with great care, opting for a lightly variegated but overall regular and uniform warm pale grey. We wanted the floor as a whole to create the calm, welcoming and non-distracting atmosphere necessary for this large and essential space.»

Superfici Ceramiche
60x60 cm

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