Herzog and De Meuron’s Porta Volta Project In Milan Finally On Its Way
December 6, 2012
Works at Herzog and De Meuron’s Porta Volta project have finally started in Milan, after a two year delay. The project is a redevelopment scheme of the area around the city’s north-western Spanish gate. After its completion, expected to take about 30 months, the intervention is supposed to turn the traffic-dominated site into a vibrant place dominated by green and cultural amenities and integrated into the city fabric. Yet some are still rejecting the design as foreign to the Milanese architectural context. Continue.
The symbolic nature of the site (and probably the economic crisis) has prompted sour comments among local architects regarding the choice of Swiss architects as project designers. Despite Herzog and De Meuron’s efforts to portray their design as Milanese, through the choice of scale and architectural features, noted architect and critic Vittorio Gregotti is not convinced. In a recent article, Gregotti accused the project of “architectural colonialism”, aimed at imposing “the mark of a North-Germanic culture” in Milan. Herzog and De Meuron, on the other hand, are arguing that the project’s buildings are inspired by traditional Milanese architecture, quoting various city landmarks and even local farmhouses. Controversy aside, the first sod was happily celebrated at the end of November and the project completion is expected for 2015.
The master plan for Porta Volta is centered on two massive yet transparent edifices: a 27,000 sq feet headquarters building for the prestigious Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation, and a 80,729 sq feet office building, both immersed in about four acres of green. The two structures with similar architecture follow almost mimetically the footprint of the Spanish walls, built in the 15th century and demolished in the late 1800′s. The space separating them reads more like a hiatus in a compact mass, reminding of the city gateway. Past city gates are either preserved or carefully marked in Milan, bustle with activity and act as the main nodes of the city. Porta Volta is one of the few such sites that has remained void until now, and the perspective of hosting the cultural and entertaining amenities proposed by the Feltrinelli Foundation is considered by the majority a fine opportunity.
All images courtesy of Herzog and De Meuron