One material, many materials
Alfonso Femia, Gianluca Peluffo
The Free University of Languages and Communication in Milan is located near the Famagosta metro stop, a former peripheral zone that has become a strategic hub for the city’s transport system but still bears the scars of the fragmentary and speculative building practices of the 1960s.
The project created by the 5+1AA architecture practice, at the time directed by Alfonso Femia and Gianluca Peluffo, assigned the same identity and dignity to both solids and voids to create a campus consisting of multiple buildings with individual roles and meanings.
The three main spaces of the complex are designed for separate but complementary, even osmotic functions.
The brick laboratory tower, IULM’s symbolic hub and research centre, stands out for its distinctive external staircase, a kind of angular walkway that twists its way around the outside of the façade.
Inside the tower, the various floors are connected by a spiral staircase leading to the classrooms and laboratories as well as the digital library, one of the highlights of the project where users can view, record and process a wide range of content in the field of communication. The traditional library has been moved to a single location in the west wing adjacent to the existing building to emphasise the unitary vision of the IULM project. Further spaces are devoted to the archives, the historical records of the initiatives and activities carried out over the years in the fields of fashion, cinema and communication.
The southern part of the building consists of flexible spaces suitable both for academic facilities such as offices, laboratories and classrooms and for company premises.
Envisioned as a Knowledge Transfer Centre, this is the space where the city and university can meet to share and exchange knowledge, a place of dialogue and communication that is essential in any university.
The KTC also plays an important role as a spin-off incubator, an important opportunity for specialisation and growth through cooperation with public and private institutions, companies operating in the fields of journalism, television and corporate communication, fashion, art, design and style.
At the centre of the interlocking solids and voids stands a 700-seat auditorium clad externally with green Diamante collection ceramic tiles from Casalgrande Padana, a façade covering that creates a feeling of disorientation and surprise.
Specially designed by 5+1AA for the renowned Italian ceramic tile manufacturer, the Diamante collection consists of glazed porcelain tile with a powerful three-dimensional shape. The glossy, multifaceted surface of this innovative ceramic tiling creates a constantly-changing pattern of chiaroscuro reflections and contrasts.
Three-dimensionality, light and colour allow this surface covering to take on different levels of meaning, multiplying its potential for use in different fields of application: one material, many different materials.
«Creating diamond shapes with variable geometries, translating these into volumes, into the dimension of residential architecture, of history and the city, placing them in relation with other materials: this was the challenge we set ourselves and won. That idea, that challenge, that search for «comrades in arms» such as artists, companies and clients was the starting point for the journey that led us to this project.»
Casalgrande Padana, Diamante R20
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50÷60 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): compliant
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant