SSF - Milano | image courtesy of AF517 | photo ©Ernesta Caviola

The new office buildings (“The Torre Orizzontale”) of the Fiera Milano in Rho

Rho, Milan (IT)

© Author: Arch. Francesco De Fazio

The new office buildings (“The Torre Orizzontale”) of the Fiera Milano in Rho, designed by the 5+1AA Studio (that is now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia), are in the area North-west of Milan and aim to enhance the development and architectural transformation of an important part of the city.

The building of Torre Orizzontale had been developed within 3 years and built in 16 months. Its structure follows unexpected directions: the basement is higher than the street and the vertical garden is the frame of the new buildings.

The design proposal contains the desire of union and division of two buildings at the same time. These buildings run on two different line directions, completely fulfilling the goal of the work, which, in other words, is creating only one location for some of the companies of Fiera Milano, that before were in different places.

A new building for the Fiera of Milano

The Torre Orizzontale is in the area of Milano Fiera in Rho, built on the reclaimed land of what before was the Agip refinery. The building is located on the street “asse del Sempione”, characterized by the panorama that reach the North-west part of Milan.

Napoleon Bonaparte had already ambitiously outlined the asse and the desire of looking to west, to Turin and France. Sempione was the shortest connection from the Champagne fairs in South France to the shopping centers of southern Italy, especially Milan.

Nowadays there are more and more streets, and they all look towards Europe from west to east. The infrastructural strategies are shown in works such as the new Polo of the Fiera, and in the transformations of the neighboring areas that, like a puzzle, project Milan in part of a new international dimension.

The new building, together with the two towers in the southern area of the Fiera and designed by the architect Dominique Perrault, aims to be visible from faraway. A sort of new visual reference for the entire territory in a lacking landscape.

Architectural representativeness

Two in one.
One in three.

~ Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

The Torre Orizzontale is very close to the building complex of the Fiera and it’s characterized by the dimension and the horizontal shape. These aspects – concerning the southern access and the urban prospective on the promenade, the exit of the underground and on the main infrastructure to east – are the reasons of the proposal for a horizontal tower (132,65 meters x 48,10 x 16 on a base of +120 cm).

The proposal has a different approach to south-east than north-west (or, in other words, on the longitudinal axes of the building position angle).

The Torre Orizzontale and the Palazzo verticale (two palaces together) are the two souls, representative and symbolic of the building, without one prevailing on another.

The volume of Torre Orizzontale

The composition of the Torre Orizzontale is classic: basement, elevation and crownwork. The first one welcomes and divide the flows of people and the half-landing creates a suspension at half-height. On the last floor, other than the roof-garden, there are a platform with a diameter of 25 meters for the landing of airplanes and a photovoltaic system.

The building has a steel weight-bearing structure, realized with steel structure pillars and with beams simply as a support. Hollow-core slabs of 30 cm high and concrete composite slab of 5 cm are on different height levels beams. Concrete stairs and elevators ensure the global stability in case of wind and earthquakes, indeed their actions go through the rigid slabs.

Facades of gold and iridescent shades

From sunrise to sunset.

~ Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

The facades cover an area of 12,000 square meters and there are three types. They bestow a golden and iridescent aspect to the building, in a perfect synthesis of technique and aesthetic.

The first type, of about 3,500 square meters, is on the left side of the building and was built with aluminum cells vertically developed, according to the system of double skin facades (DSF). The interior skin has a thermal insulation and sound-proof function and grey glass elements, while the external one is lighter and it works as a sunshade, using the innovative soft coating and laminated glass.

The second type with a facade of about 2,500 square meters, in the frontal right part of the building, was made with metal cells, horizontally developed curtain walls.

Finally, in the back of the building there is a blind rainscreen of about 6,000 square meters covered by gold fiber cement sidings.

The choice of materials and the position of them is the result of a meticulous work of analysis concerning the orientation and the position of the sun during the day by the Studio and FRarchitettura : both glass and metal elements were thought with an original golden color to bestow a unique aspect to the building.

Outdoor, the natural light is able to transform the perceptions of a natural or artificial landscape. At the special event of the Fiera, the light shows and reflects among shades of white, grey and color points. This can become an iridescent material, from north to south, east to west, enhancing the dark color of sunrise and sunset.

The new building is defined by golden – its magnificence is all because of the solar light and its reflections, the ability of representing an atmosphere of transparency, opaqueness, mirror treatments and half-transparencies with its surrounding, in the perspectives of the territory that characterize the area at different speeds all day long.

~ Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

The Torre Orizzontale for sustainability

The choice of the Studio had been creating a unique organism, divided in two buildings, in order to sufficiently reach all the goals established during the bid regarding the efficiency on deliveries, administration and the energetic efficiency.

Speaking about environmental sustainability, the adopted solutions for the Torre Orizzontale not only had the objective of reducing the consumption of water and energy, using renewable sources (the building received a grade A of EU Energy label), but also of improving the conditions of users’ wellbeing, from the thermal, acoustic and space access point of view.

The outside of the Torre Orizzontale wasn’t designed to be a rigid and uniform system, but a flexible and modular one. In this way the building can respond effectively, and it is efficient to the different solicitations of the surrounding environment.

It has a total area of about 15,000 square meters (8,300 for the visual parts). The same perception of light in any part built is possible due to the use of soft coating glass, with the right balance for high energetic and acoustic performances.

The thermal transmittance (U-value) calculated has very low values, according to the regulations of the regions imposed at the moment.

With regard to designing, outdoor spaces have changed: an articulated system of ramps, stairs and sloped surfaces is the basement on which the buildings stand, and it represents a sort of limit that divide the indoor space from the outdoor. The basement and the foyer are made of “Black Michelangelo” marble, on which we can admire the white travertine stairs.

The outdoor spaces are mainly green, with a lighting system on pedestrian routes but not for vehicles.

A black basement and a green crown work are part of a responsive and emotional device that brings back to memory the use of gold in Italian paintings from Fra Angelico to the contemporary Kounellis.

~ Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

Project info and credits:

largo Metropolitana, 1 – 20017 Rho, Milano

Sviluppo Sistema Fiera spa

general contractor
Italiana Costruzioni spa (Gruppo Navarra)

chief designer
Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA (now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia)

architectural and landscape design
Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA (now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia)
Jean-Baptiste Pietri Architectes

roads and infrastructures
IQuadro Ingegneria (Stefano Migliaro, Luca Romano)

services engineering
AI Engineering, AI Studio

project manager
Raffaella F. Pirrello

design team
Simonetta Cenci, Raffaella F. Pirrello, Gabriele Filippi, Alessandro Bellus, Lorenza Barabino, Luca Bonsignorio, Stefania Bracco, Sara Massa, Carola Picasso, Francesca Recagno

artistic direction
Alfonso Femia, with 5+1AA, Raffaella F. Pirrello

new directional buildings of Sviluppo Sistema Fiera spa in Rho, Milan

total area:
25.730 m2
gross floor area:
21.000 m2
building area:
4.800 m2
54 m
car parks:
180 cars
4 bus
100 taxi
700 moto

32.000.000,00 euro

architectural design

Ernesta Caviola

international competition by invitation: winning design

HQE – Energy Class A

Chicago Athenaeum international architectural award for the best new global design 2011