26 May 2020
The winner of the international competition for the design of the building and the campus for Human Technopole, the Italian research institute for life sciences, was announced at an online press conference on 3rd April.
The multi-award-winning Milanese studio Piuarch (Francesco Fresa, Germán Fuenmayor, Gino Garbellini and Monica Tricario) netted this ambitious project set in the heart of Milan’s MIND Milano Innovation District, the ecosystem of scientific innovation taking shape in the Arexpo area. The scheme, due to be completed within the next three years, is already being hailed as a new iconic landmark on the city’s architectural scene, with its irregular, broken profile and ten storeys, more than 16,500 square metres of space dedicated to scientific research laboratories and 3,000 square metres of terraces and green areas. The building will cover 35,000 square metres overall, and become the headquarters of the Human Technopole scientific laboratories as well as the focal point of the campus, including several existing structures built for Expo Milano 2015 - Palazzo Italia, the North Pavilion and the South Pavilion. Coincidentally, Piuarch had built two Expo pavilions, including the Enel Pavilion, which will be reworked and extended as part of the fluid, continuous space, becoming a place of connection and interaction. The project revisits the traditional Italian piazza with a contemporary take on its human and sustainable environmental values. Interpenetration between the solid volumes of buildings and the public space that surrounds and crosses them is a favoured theme for the winning studio, and was previously brilliantly articulated in the Quattro Corti Business Centre in St Petersburg (2006-2010) and the Porta Nuova Building in Milan (2006-2013).
The building will be made up of two parallel, functional and flexible volumes, the backbone of which will consist of three main, public or collective spaces: a fully-equipped parterre, a covered piazza and a hanging garden, forming an uninterrupted sequence from the ground floor right up to the top of the building.
At ground level, the parterre connects the Human Technopole Headquarters to the existing campus buildings. The covered piazza is the beating heart of the project, on a functional, relational and symbolic level. On one hand this gigantic full-height empty space, flooded with natural light, is crossed by a system of ramps and walkways that connect all the different levels of the building, but it is also a crucial space for interaction, an architectural interpretation of the values of an institution such as the Human Technopole Foundation, which promotes scientific research as an ethical and “transparent” activity.
Lastly, the hanging garden is a natural complement to the covered piazza. The asymmetrical roof pitches are covered with alternating hanging and planted greenery, steps and wide wooden platforms. The offices and laboratories are arranged around the backbone of the building in two compact and distinct blocks, both parallel with the covered piazza. The nine lower floors are earmarked for laboratories and offices, while the top floor will be given over to refreshment areas, conference rooms, management offices and terraces, leading directly to the accessible roof garden, a veritable high-rise landscape.
The Campus area is designed to maintain continuity with the surrounding Decumano and Cardo spaces and also to preserve the visual relationship with Palazzo Italia, which thus becomes an integral part of the public space. The project for the building provided an opportunity to flesh out a reflection on the relationship between functionality and quality of spaces. To quote the architects: “The new building was designed primarily as a meeting place, thanks to an architecture capable of interconnecting public and research functions. This continuous spatial sequence makes for a fluid and highly iconic, functional and adaptable, sustainable and avant-garde landscape. In order to design scientific laboratories and guarantee maximum efficiency, absolute priority has to be given to the functional aspects, far more stringently than in other situations (a museum project, for example). However this obligation need not necessary mean renouncing an architectural solution to the problem, with its own spatial quality and its own ‘poetry’.”
Poetry, understood as a linguistic element, an imaginary repertory of artistic origin, finds its architectural translation in the sunshades that articulate the façades of the building, functional elements first and foremost, but laden with their own poetry, partitions reminiscent of experiments with kinetic art.
The Human Technopole Headquarters has been designed to be a highly sustainable ecosystem. The green areas at ground and roof level allow for the correct management of rainwater and contribute to the production of renewable energy, consistent with the green design approach, thanks to the photovoltaic system installed on the ground floor canopies, on the façade and on the roof, helping to fulfil the building’s energy demands.
This is an important project, which aims to provide the best possible working conditions for scientists and researchers. An investment – 94.5 million euros – in the wellbeing and health of citizens and a concrete way of bolstering the scientific community in Italy and preparing it for future challenges. It will provide a cutting-edge hub in which the next generation of researchers will be formed.