This large public building, completed in 2011, is the materialization of the winning entry in an international design competition sponsored by the Lombardy Regional Government, with the aim of achieving three explicitly stated goals: first, to provide office and support spaces for government departments in a form that is efficient, flexible, and readily accessible to the public; second, to provide outdoor gathering places together with ancillary cultural facilities that will enhance public life and stimulate regeneration of Milan's Garibaldi-Repubblica district; and third, to exemplify the most advanced green practices in both building design and operation.
The sinuous interweaving strands of linear office space buildings, 14 meters in width and seven to nine floors in height, which optimize efficiency and flexibility while giving Palazzo Lombardia its distinctive form, are derived from the intersection of 22 circles comprising 11 identical circular rings. Owing to their modest scale, these interweaving strands relate well to adjoining residential neighborhoods, while still allowing a slender tower, shaped by the intersection of two curved fragments, to celebrate the new seat of government on the skyline of Milan.
An important corollary benefit of the curvilinear building concept is the resultant array of interconnected open spaces that invite public passage and public gathering at street level. The largest of these spaces—Piazza Città di Lombardia—is sheltered by a roof composed of transparent pillows of ETFE film. At ground level, the interweaving strands are occupied by entry lobbies, public amenities, and varied cultural facilities that engage popular interest, animate the public spaces, and promote social interaction.
The building utilizes a broad array of green design and operating practices, some well established and others more innovative in nature. Among these are green roofs and active climate walls, the latter composed of two layers of glass separated by a one-meter-wide cavity with vertical blades that rotate to provide shade while maximizing transparency of the building envelope. The narrowness of the interweaving strands brings plentiful daylight to all workspaces, minimizing the use of artificial light. In addition, the energy required for heating in winter and cooling in summer will be supplied by a geothermal heat pump system tapping the heat exchange potential of a nearby underground river. Lastly, photovoltaic cells are laminated in the glass panels of the tower's south facades.
The shading vanes are computer-controlled perforated aluminum fins. They rotate in groups of four or eight, depending on their location, and deflect direct sunlight. The fine perforations allow visibility when the vanes are less than perpendicular to the layers of glass. The one-meter climate wall cavity provides a walking surface for maintenance personnel. Return air from each floor is exhausted into the return air cavity formed by the sealed layers of glass.
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