Historical Background: Acquisition of the Project and Area Covered
The renovation and expansion of the historic Hotel Excelsior Gallia in the heart of Milan is part of the wider urban redevelopment of Piazza Duca D’Aosta, following the recent completion of the modernization works at the Central Station. An international investment fund from Qatar has acquired the hotel, which consists of a 1930s building and an extension dating from the early 1960s known as Pirelli Wing, with the intention of turning it into a five star luxury hotel.
Other three buildings have been acquired, which are currently in a state of disrepair. These form a trapezoidal lot bordered by Via Filzi, Via Galvani, Piazza Duca D’Aosta and Piazza IV Novembre. Following an international selection process, the architectural project was awarded to Studio Marco Piva, while the structural and plant projects were assigned to Arup. The project manager is Lend Lease and the cost controller is G&T, with its local partner SPI. The Interiors Division of Studio Marco Piva was subsequently appointed to carry out also the Interior Design project..
The challenge is a considerable one: to restore the accommodation facility, which now extends over the entire lot, to its past splendour, bringing the wishes of the owners and designers together in the search for a balance between the old and the new within a dynamic relationship of shapes, spaces and materials. The new project developed by architect Marco Piva comprises a complex of buildings in which the completely restored and renovated late Belle Epoque building will stand alongside a newly-designed structure to be constructed facing Piazza Duca D’Aosta, via Galvani and via Filzi to create a light steel and glass curtain, a counterpoint to the solid, monumental shapes of the “historic” Gallia.
As requested by the Client, and with the agreement of the city authorities, the new building was conceived to contrast to the historic building, the intention being that its architectural character will convey a sense of connection with the modern architecture of the urban surroundings. The screen printed glass façade, with its irregular alternating patterns of light and shade, will be, especially along Via Vitruvio, a connecting element between the textures of the façade of the Pirelli skyscraper and the more far-off textures of Torre Galfa and the new buildings under construction in the Porta Nuova area. The project concept is a reference to the Milan lifestyle, to the unique set of dynamic elements that have always been a feature of the life of the city: the unceasing interaction of the local culture with the most diverse range of other cultures, which has always been characterized by an emphasis on newness, beauty, fashion, industrial design and the dynamic, positive lifestyle in which Milan is utterly immersed, and which it exports the world over.
The design approach was inspired by a study of the location and history of the building and by people’s memories. All these elements are at the heart of the design process. The study of the site, with special emphasis on the urban context, its historical characteristics and the layers of functions and volumes, was the starting point for the studies of volumes, materials and formal aspects of the work we aimed to accomplish. In the case of the existing buildings, especially those with a historical architectural value, the survey extended to the structural and stylistic elements, the purpose here being to identify those design elements which might be a link between history and the functional projection into the future. So far as the Hotel Excelsior Gallia is concerned, the input we obtained from the recollections of individuals and the community at large was essential for identifying the new structure of the building that needed to be rendered more functional. For example, the Hotel Excelsior Gallia was frequented for many years by journalists and writers, hosted meetings of Italy’s football community for decades, and was often used as a film or television set.
The project to renovate and extend the Hotel Excelsior Gallia is divided into two separate but coordinated phases.
The Historic Building
The first phase includes the restoration and functional recovery of the 1930s building, the Excelsior Hotel Gallia, which was built to accommodate travellers arriving in Milan thanks to the new Central Station.
The historic building is richly decorated, with caryatids and mascarons made by using a moulding technique with a mixture of cement and aggregates. These decorative elements, like all the historic façades, have been completely restored. The steel structures built in the 1990s have been restored to accommodate an exclusive restaurant, an event space and an enormous Royal Suite with a private spa.
The Modern Building
The new building is being developed adjacent to the historic building, and will replace the four structures that had previously been located at the side of the hotel. The new building will be adjacent and connected to all the floors of the historic building, and will run from Piazza Duca D’Aosta to Via Galvani and Via Filzi. It will be built around an internal courtyard, and will include a host of new features: a centre for meetings, conferences and exhibitions on the ground floor, and a large spa on the sixth and seventh floors, with swimming pool, gym, saunas, hammam and a wellness centre. The seventh floor will also have a bar with a panoramic terrace. All these spaces will be easily accessible, even by hotel non-residents, thanks to the new high-speed lifts located in the large new ground floor lobby. The new building will be a single morphological structure extending harmoniously along three sides, creating a ground-floor area which is functionally interrelated with its surroundings and creates a powerful osmosis with the city.
A second main entrance to the hotel has been created along Via Filzi, thereby permitting the historic interior façade of the building to be restored. Although this is a less noble entrance, it has been restored to a state of great dignity, and offers a new scenario for the Via Filzi façade. This new entrance offers direct access to a large foyer, an “interior square” covered by a glass roof between the mezzanine and the first floor. The foyer will provide access to the conference and meeting rooms which will be the driver of new functions and a new relationship with the city. Again with the aim of reinforcing the connections between the building and the city around it, other access points will be reactivated or created along the streets and squares that surround the hotel. Along Via Filzi, the façade of the new building will have a dynamic system of access points to large multi-purpose, conference and exhibition halls. In addition to the new access points to the conference areas, there will be a large service entrance, interconnected with the hotel service activities (back of the house) and with a new system of technological equipment mostly located at the basement level, which will be completely redesigned.
In line with the ongoing renewal of Piazza Duca D’Aosta, a landscaping project has been created to redevelop the entire block, with particular attention being paid to green areas, pavements in stone, pedestrian pathways protected by a large glass and steel canopy and parking areas.
The interiors of the new Hotel Excelsior Gallia will be created with great attention being paid to the choice of materials, textures and details, and there will be powerful references to design and to the Milanese lifestyle, with a nod to the timeless elegance of Art Deco being added in the shapes and ambiences.
The façades of the new building
The façade of the new building is transparent and light. It will consist of 142 cm wide modules, divided into three sections, with two blind sides and an opening glass panel, which will have an inner glass balaustrade to transmit light; this element is intended to recall the small balconies, almost flush with the façades, that can be found in many historical buildings in Milan. The impact of the frame of the building will be reduced to a minimum, and the uprights will be concealed so as to provide continuity of the façade. The ground floor will have floor-to-ceiling windows to convey a sense of transparency and to offer optimal levels of interaction with the city and the surroundings. The sixth and seventh floors, which house a spa, a swimming pool, an extended fitness area and a restaurant and rooftop bar, will be located inside a light glass space, a glass curtain which will light up spectacularly in the evening.
The rhythms of the façade
In the historic part, the rhythm of the façade will be dictated by the existing structural rhythm and windows, and will be of a vertical type. All the wood window frames in the old wing will be replaced with wood and bronze-coloured aluminium frames to keep the existing colour scheme and improvements in both thermal and acoustic performance and maintenance. The façade of the new building will take up the vertical rhythm imposed by the windows of the historic building; this verticality will also be underscored by the choice of materials. Since the heights of the various storeys of the historic building are different, in order to maintain the same internal levels, the new building will include compensation bands so that the façade is modulated based on the existing structural alignments. The interior façades of the new building will be lined with basalt facings.
To comply with the applicable regulations regarding light pollution, a lighting study of the façades has been carried out with the aim of highlighting the decorative and allegorical details of the historic building through the use of lighting systems that cannot be seen, so that the special elements and details of the building can be “described” without having an impact on the surrounding areas. LED lighting systems will be used for both the exteriors and interiors so as to ensure a longer life for the systems and therefore less maintenance, with consequent substantial energy and cost savings.Location: Milan, Italy Architecture, Landscaping, Lighting, Interior Design: Studio Marco Piva Customer: Katara Hospitality Project: 5 Star Luxury Hotel | 235 rooms, of which 188 will be standard, plus 45 suites, 1 Presidential Suite, 1 Royal Suite
Site area: 4,273 square metres
Built area: 30,840 gross square metres
Project phase: Under Construction