25 September 2019

Milan’s design culture: life stories as told by the Achille Castiglioni Foundation
Achille Castiglioni: the city

“as a seasoned Milanese I know that this city, notwithstanding all its contradictions, is a place in which one can work happily in an international spirit.
This is it: I’d like all the transformations that are taking place now to make Milan into a city in which all those who live here and the many people who come here from other places will be able to continue to work in an international spirit for a good deal longer.”

Achille Castiglioni, 1987

Rebuilding the Permanente

Project: Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Luigi Fratino, architects
Static Calculations: Mario Cavallè, engineer

“One part of the complex extends horizontally over the entire area, earmarked for the exhibition galleries of Milan’s Società per le Belle Arti, while the other, destined for offices, extends upwards – thirteen storeys.

The former was rebuilt after being destroyed in the war, preserving some of the pre-existing structures, while the latter was superimposed onto the old structure.

The two parts are quite independent of each other. An arcade, running alongside the exhibition galleries connects the lifts in the tower block, which start on the ground floor. The building, which looks out onto the street, was built in 1886 to a design by Luca Beltrami, and remained emblematic of the Società per Esposizioni for decades. Saved from the 1943 bombings, it now contains three separate entrances. The exhibition galleries are accessed through the middle one, the stores from the left and the office in the tower block from the right.”


“… caused me to reflect on the architectural projects carried out during the immediate post-war period, when we tried in good faith to save from speculation (savagery), the established architectural works within the city, partly destroyed in the war, alas.”

The case of the Permanente in Milan […] in which the public building, built to a design by Luca Beltrami in 1886, had suffered slight damage to the façade overlooking Via Turati, but was completely destroyed internally where the exhibition galleries were destined to go; it has to be classed as one of those typical examples in which it has only been possible to rebuild the institution’s headquarters by handing over the construction of a high rise building into private ownership and for private use.

Had the Permanente not been forced by the lack of public intervention to settle for private backing, this operation would have assumed a very different importance for the city and the tower block would not have been designed as a more or less self-contained edifice.

The main design element in the vertical building would have been geared to the activities of the the Permanente organisation […], creating a complex unified not just structurally but integrally for the benefit of the community, where all the related activities could be found in one single place.

[…] This solution would have resulted in the ‘Permanente skyscraper’, a building complex designed for a single purpose, assuming a typical symbolic value and constituting a point of reference for a particular cultural activity.”

A. and P.G. Castiglioni

Advanced materials and technologies were used to build the complex, such as radiant panels providing summer cooling and a pneumatic post system, connecting the office access lobbies on the various floors with the porter’s lodge. An article in Domus 253 of August 1953, which features the building on its cover says: “this building consisting exclusively of repeated straight lines and parallels is not a ‘closed’ building […] it is - like the great modern vertical constructions - an ‘interrupted’ building, a fine example […] the eaves brusquely disrupt the upward movement. In order to enjoy it and retain our interest, our eye has to be drawn back to the development of the façade, as if the interruption above were a mechanical issue, unconnected with the architecture, accidental.”

from Sergio Polato, Achille Castiglioni, Electa

#Achille Castiglioni, #Piergiacomo Castiglioni, #Milano, #La Permanente, #Luca Beltrami, #architecture, #city