Frigoriferi Milanesi | image courtesy of AF517 | photo ©Ernesta Caviola

Frigoriferi Milanesi

Milan (IT)

© Author: Arch. Francesco De Fazio

Over time, the city center and its development have been getting close to the Frigoriferi Milanesi and the Palazzo del Ghiaccio, two ancient industrial buildings of the beginning of 1900s.

The development area of the Frigoriferi Milanesi and Palazzo del Ghiaccio is in the street via Piranesi 10, in the south-east area of the city, near what had been the railway yard of Porta Vittoria.

Via Piranesi is mostly known for its solid and long fronts: one side mainly “productive” and the other “residential”.

The project consisted in upgrading the entire building complex.

From ice factory to cultural place

The many factory units that had been part of the building complex were converted into a new multifunctional space, where institutions and companies work in the fields of art and culture.

The huge skating rink covered by a steel covering of the Palazzo del Ghiaccio was transformed into a multifunctional space for cultural events.

The foyer, the restaurant-bar and the exhibit spaces are like galleries that open up on the central space. The Open Care Café and the offices are in the Stecca Building.

The Frigoriferi Milanesi, an ancient ice factory, had been renovated to become the headquarter of the society Open Care. They include offices, renovation labs and places that preserve art works.

The Open Care Caveau is the most fascinating place of the complex. It is hung between the black flights of the entrance, the white foyer and the precious intricate hallways and cells.

Two unique places flourishing back in Milan

The Frigoriferi Milanesi overlook the street as a slat building (?): low, long, ordinary, and indifferent, but with a leading role compared to the two important figures beyond the line.

Thanks to 100 meters of development, it plays with perspective, and it looks like a big arrow pointing to the entrance. In this way, it becomes a “Plug Building” communication element for the indoor activities.

The irrelevance and the luck of personality of building are accentuated by two simple operations.

  • The ‘submersion’ of the grey ingot into a black oil liquid.
  • The superimposition of a new shiny ‘skin-wrap’ made of glass which creates a chromatic shade in contrast with the monotonous geometry of the facade below, which makes the volume two-dimensional and creates a ‘dark effect’.

The restoration project marks the ugliness redemption of grey and rejected buildings. Red and black. Color and consideration, light and dark. A few marks, that are almost graphic, sorrounded by ink. An hidden and bright heart underground. Then, total white and decoration. For a little affection after the violence of the redemption of grey“.
~ Alfonso Femia / Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

Project info and credits:

Frigoriferi Milanesi spa
Open Care spa
Società del Palazzo del Ghiaccio srl

architectural and landscape design
Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia
architect in charge
Alfonso Femia

Alfonso Femia, Simonetta Cenci

structural engineering
Stefano Migliaro, Luca Romano, Luciano Chierici

services engineering
Marco Taccini

façade systems
Colori Project srl, Norlight spa, Officine Tosoni spa, Ser & All snc
Ice Palace:
Bonelli spa
Milanese ice factory:
Sermeca spa

light engineering
Norlight spa (Blade, Bubble, On-Off: design 5+1AA)
Castaldi spa

interior design
Open Care Caveau:
Marzorati Ronchetti sas
Open Care Café:
Pama arredamenti srl
Milanese ice factory:
Sinetica Industries srl, Office Solutions srl, Sitland spa, Art Legno

primary finishing
Palazzo del Ghiaccio:
Globalchim srl, Tecnospray srl, Inverplast srl, Lualdi spa, Zambonini srl, Legno In srl, Realizzare (Federico Fossati)
Milanese ice factory:
Joint Venture production sas, FM Contract spa, Novak srl, Lualdi spa, Landi Bruno srl
Open Care Caveau:
S.A.B.A.H. Group spa

art direction
Alfonso Femia / 5+1AA now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

art direction assistants
Francesca Raffaella Pirello, Sara Traverso

technical direction
Palazzo del Ghiaccio:
Luciano Carminati
Milanese ice factory:
Luciano Carminati
Open Care Caveau , “Stecca”:
Martino Ferrari

Ice Palace, Milanese ice factory:
Ausglobe Formula spa
Open Care Café:
Estedil srl
Open Care Caveau:
Floreani e Fornari, Estedil srl
Edilmonetti srl

system realization
Open Care Caveau, Open Care Café:
B&B snc, Sarem srl, Johnson Control srl, Scame srl, Somogi srl, BMZ
Brulli spa, Somogi srl, BMZ
Ice Palace:
Colombo srl, Scame srl, Sarem srl, Johnson Control srl, Lenzi spa, Telmotor spa
Milanese ice factory:
Colombo Enrico srl, Scame srl, Sarem srl, Johnson Control srl, Maspero Elevatori spa
Open Care Caveau, Open Care Café:
Somogi srl

design team
Raffaella Francesca Pirrello, Francesca Recagno, Sara Traverso, Francesca Calcagno, Lisa Fellini, Sara Massa, Cinzia Avanzi, Luca Bonsignorio, Enrico Martino, Stefania Bracco, Anna Patti, Ilaria Sisto, Francesca Ameglio, Lorenza Barabino, Chiara Braida, Sara Gottardo, Gianluca Peluffo

requalification of Milanese Ice Factory complex, via Piranesi Milan

Open Care Caveau:
1.525 m2
1.260 m2
2.200 m2
Open Care Café:
280 m2
Ice Palace:
5.990 m2
Milanese ice factory:
16.550 m2
tot. 27.480 m2
+ 2.200 m2 façade

Master Plan
Open Care Caveau
“Stecca”, Open Care Café
Ice Palace
Milanese ice factory

Open Care Caveau:
1.044.431,00 euro
“Stecca”, Open Care Café:
901.407,00 euro + 250.000,00 euro
Ice Palace:
5.938.592,29 euro
Milanese ice factory:
7.220.473,45 euro
15.354.903,00 euro

Danilo Trogu

© 5+1AA now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

©Ernesta Caviola


  • European prize for architecture “philippe rotthier 2011”: best mixing of urban activities and integrations
  • Medaglia d’Oro all’Architettura Italiana 2009, segnalazione
  • Premio Mies Van Der Rohe 2009, segnalazione
  • International prize “The color: architectonical material”: winning design
  • Premio Archés 2006