BIG's Andreas Klok Pedersen discusses the sweeping design of the Portico in CityLife Milan
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BIG's Andreas Klok Pedersen discusses the sweeping design of the Portico in CityLife Milan

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By doing the design this way we almost form a modern interpretation of the buildings that mark the entrance into a new urban area and the porticos that you find all over Milan as these indoor-outdoor blurring spaces that interconnect buildings.

Earlier this month, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) unveiled their designs for the Portico – a 53,500sq m (577,000sq ft) development comprising two courtyard buildings joined by a 140m (459ft)-long hanging canopy.

Designed by BIG's London office, headed by partner and design director of BIG London Andreas Klok Pedersen, the Portico sits on the last two plots of the CityLife mixed-use district in Milan.

Describing the design to CLAD, Pederson said: "The project invites people in and it also almost frames or celebrates the trio of towers that sit in the background. Rather than competing with the towers and creating a fourth tower, this project ends up completing the skyline."

The district is already home to the Allianz Tower designed by Arata Isozaki & Associates and Andrea Maffei Architects, the Generali Tower by Zaha Hadid Architects and the Libeskind Tower by Studio Daniel Libeskind.

Despite this, the brief asked for a fourth to be added, but Pedersen explained that BIG weren't sure that was the right way to go.

"We thought that maybe we should leave that already successful architecture alone as the central piece and then our building could be a completion of the masterplan that would help to tie it into the surrounding city and invite people into the area."

As Pedersen indicated, this would mean reconciling CityLife's highrises with the smaller, more densely packed buildings of the surrounding area.

"The real challenge was to come up with a typology that would bridge the CityLife masterplan and its iconic towers with the more human-scale, urban surroundings. So, quite early on in the project, we started exploring the idea of creating two lower courtyard buildings instead of creating a fourth tower in the masterplan."

Although the two courtyard buildings don't rise as high as a tower would have, generous floorplates ensure that there is still ample space for programming. They also incorporate outdoor spaces at their centres.

The two buildings varying in height and, while they both have striking downward curving rooflines, it is the canopy – as it continues and connects those rooflines – that is the most notable feature of the design.

The portico-like structure will create new public space and provide shelter from the sun and the rain.

Constructed of tension cables and lightweight metal, it hangs between the two buildings and is anchored to the ground by columns, rather than being supported.

The ambition is also to clad the rood in photovoltaic shingles, allowing the structure to generate power.

The eventual result will be a sweeping mixed-use development incorporating workspaces and public realm that will blend the typologies on either side.

"It's neither a high-rise of a low-rise," explained Pedersen. "It creates this transition from the urban surroundings into the CityLife masterplan."

This approach was inspired by the historical entrance points to Milan and the porticos that would provide shade and shelter.

"By doing the design this way we would almost form a modern interpretation of the buildings that mark the entrance into a new urban area and the porticos that you find all over Milan as these indoor-outdoor blurring spaces that interconnect buildings."

The Portico is expected to be complete by 2023.

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Earlier this month, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) unveiled their designs for the Portico – a 53,500sq m (577,000sq ft) development comprising two courtyard buildings joined by a 140m (459ft)-long hanging canopy.
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