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Cantù/Orefici Building

The complex of buildings in via Cantù – via Orefici is a piece of the great 19th century design of Piazza Cordusio, an intermediate place between the Duomo and the Sforzesco Castle, destined for the functions of the Milanese City (the Stock Exchange, the main bank offices, the central post office).
This set of tertiary services, in recent years, has seen a succession of commercial functions that have radically changed the perception of Piazza Cordusio: no longer the center of the city of business, but a commercial and lively junction between the cathedral square and the bars and shops of Via Dante.

The redevelopment project has provided for limited interventions, aimed at improving the liveability and functionality of the two buildings, without distorting their identity.
Over the years, the buildings have already been the object of intervention several times, and the design attitude of the architects Barreca & La Varra wanted to adopt the principles of transparency and rigor for this further rewriting. The largest of the two buildings, on the corner of Via Cantù and Via Orefici, is a courtyard and is connected to the second building, overlooking Via Orefici by a covered passage on the second floor. On the ground, the public pedestrian street Passaggio Centrale, inside the complex, separates them, and the main entrances face onto it.

The studio wanted to maintain the centrality of the courtyard, making it an opportunity for a contemporary “double-face” grafting, creating a double-height environment with a volumetrically complex steel and glass roof: the new roof is transparent and allows light to pass through on the commercial ground floor, but is mirrored towards the upper floors used as offices, so as to multiply and reflect the historic facades that overlook it. The ground floor cladding in gilded metal panels creates an unexpected casket, which can only be glimpsed from the outside. The alignments of the structural elements have been taken from the pitch of the openings, already coordinated in the existing one with the design of the courtyard flooring; the plant terminals are integrated in a sober and minimalist design.

The redevelopment and enhancement of the fifth floor has led to the opening of a new glazed balcony overlooking the courtyard, cut into the roof pitch and open to the sky. The covered passage between the two buildings on the second floor is also a light graft with a painted metal structure and partial curtain walls in multilayer glass, which transforms transit spaces into small “squares” that can be used by office tenants. The recovery of unused spaces has made it possible to create new useful surface area, and to equip the complex with a new, large terrace at the top of the smaller building with a small volume, also in painted metal and glass, to be used as an executive meeting room and informal work space with a view of the city centre and the Duomo.

The redevelopment of the vertical connections has led on the one hand to enhance the richness of the noble staircases while respecting the existing materials, and on the other to have to manage architecturally the presence of new technical volumes on the roof with cladding, where the extension of the existing lift leads to a new “high square”, a terrace for events.

In general, the perception of the building from the street is lightened: the commercial windows are all reopened at full height with very thin windows, also re-proposed on the upper floor with large mirrors. The new LED outdoor lighting project aims to enhance the historical features of the existing prestigious building, while at the same time marking the contemporary nature of the redevelopment project, and thus adding an additional piece and a new “light” to the renovated commercial district of Piazza Cordusio.

PROJECT Cantù/Orefici Building
ARCHITECTS Barreca & La Varra
LOCATION Milano, angolo via Cantù/via Orefici (zona Cordusio)
YEAR 2019
PHOTO Giacomo Albo