Monday, October 27, 2008
Universita Luigi Bocconi
Images are courtesy of Archivio Federico Brunetti.
At the inaugural World Architecture Festival in Barcelona, Spain last week, Grafton Architects' new faculty building for Luigi Bocconi University in Milan, Italy won the Festival's first World Building of the Year Award. The Irish firm's design beat out 224 shortlisted buildings from 43 countries. The jury -- composed of Cecil Balmond, Ricky Burdett, Charles Jencks, Süha Özkan, and chair Robert Stern -- were impressed by "its physical and conceptual density, [which] takes the touch, rebarbative DNA of Milan and 'lifts its skirts.'"
Eight years ago Grafton Architects won the competition to design the University's faculty building with conference and leisure facilities, including a great hall and offices for professors and students. The architects saw the competition brief as an opportunity for the school "to make a space at the scale of the city," seeing their building as "a large market hall or place of exchange." The image at left shows the northwest corner of the large site, the "window to Milan" that "addresses the throbbing urban life" of the city by giving the city an outdoor public space and a view of the subterranean foyer of the great hall, the project's indoor public space.
While the scale of the building and the treatment of its facades is surely grand, the articulation of the building's masses and volumes, from the roof to the basement, is a complex and creative way of accommodating the various functions and making daylight an important part of every space. These model views illustrate this clearly, how the section splits the research offices into "beams of space" that allow sunlight to penetrate to deepest parts of the building.
The building is an assured composition that addresses its Milanese context both on a large scale and in terms of its immediate urban and University surroundings. Its interior adroitly creates a sort of city within a city, with small-scale pieces rising from the block-size base. What the design lacks in subtlety, it easily makes up for in formal and spatial creativity, though not for its own sake. The design and concept arise from the site conditions and building functions, and it successfully negotiates these to create a 21st-century megastructure sensitive to both realms.