Unilever Tower

Wednesday 19 Sep 2018
Credit: PLP Architecture

Architects: PLP Architecture

PLP adds some shine to Milan’s Unilever Tower

As a range of projects continue to revitalise the Porta Nuova district in Milan, PLP has published plans for a re-imagined Unilever Tower

London-based practice PLP Architecture has been commissioned by Italian real estate investment and asset management company COIMA SGR to reinvigorate the historic Unilever Tower in Milan and in the process provide a new contemporary office space.

The practice’s plans also include the design of a new, smaller gateway building to the east of the tower and enhanced exterior space, which draws pedestrians in from Corso Como and beyond. The original building, designed in the late 1950s is located in the epicentre of the urban evolution of Porta Nuova, surrounded by Garibaldi Station, Piazza Gae Aulenti, Corso Como, Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli and Microsoft House.

A local landmark

Commenting on the visually-striking project Lee Polisano, Founding Partner and Chairman of PLP Architecture said: “It is our intention to restore the project’s status as a local landmark while, at the same time, creating flexible and contemporary interior environments which welcome the activities of the modern working world.“

The Unilever Tower which was built in 1962, had been a modernist landmark in the international style, although a recent misplaced attempt at recladding the facade has completely changed its character, rendering it unremarkable and undervalued. 

The existing block and surrounding buildings have become run-down, but its location is adjacent to the busy shopping street of Corso Como, and close to the mainline station at Porta Garibaldi. The motivation for this design project is to reinvigorate the building to provide contemporary office space, whilst also making it a relevant urban counterpoint to the vibrant neighbourhood nearby.

PLP’s proposals will see the 70m high and 15,000 sq m tower stripped back to its concrete structure and provide a completely new external form and spatial arrangement. The tower will be clad in a faceted glazed curtain walling which covers the east and west elevation to substantially increase the levels of light into the workspace, while also retaining the structural strategy of the original building by expressing the primary columns in the façade.

Faceted glazing 

A significant area of the new façade acts as a solar power collector, accumulating energy to be used in the building. Externally, this faceted glazing reflects the sun, surrounding buildings and trees in a varying array of angles throughout the course of the day to provide an ever-changing fractured image of the building’s urban context.

At the 15th floor of the pavilion, the glazing steps back to reveal a continuous terrace, providing views across the city and giving the upper levels of the building a crown-like appearance.

Alongside the refurbished tower, PLP has designed a new four storey pavilion which will provide over 3,000 sq m of mixed use space for both offices and retail businesses, directly accessible from Corso Como.

The building will act as an entrance marker for the development and is formed of a solid concrete ground floor structure, with splayed lightweight upper floorplates in steel and wood, like a fanned deck of cards, on which a roof garden provides amenity space for its users. Throughout the interiors PLP is using soft wood surfaces to juxtapose the hardness of the concrete structure and glazing.

Promoting green mobility

At the heart of Corso Como Place is a new piazza that is interconnected through bike paths, walkways and green areas, and responds to the demand for green mobility by seamlessly integrating with the rest of the city.

Also commenting on th eproject Manfredi Catella, Founder and CEO of COIMA SGR went on to say: “This project allows us not only to breathe new life into an important area of the city centre, but also follows in the direction of architectural development that we adhere to, or in other words using sustainable technological innovation in order to create tangible benefits for the individuals who will be inhabiting and using the property.”

Nick Myall

News editor