The project to restructure a former warehouse in the Porta Venezia zone of east-central Milan was dictated, in an experimental sense, by a need to respond to the highly-stratified, complex variety of functions and connotations typical of this neighbourhood. The urban mazescape of this block is organised according to a “crossover” system of access ways and courts, which both arranges and integrates the spaces dedicated to the different activities of production, commerce and dwelling. This project shuns the tendential rigidity of dividing spaces according to function and creating clearly defined separate environments. And so, the original subdivided space was converted into a single environment, which is now capable of smoothly incorporating the different realms of office, work, and home. The single space is composed of purpose-designed organic microenvironments, which create a distributive flexibility, thus facilitating a fluid and variable use of the available space.
The composition is both generated and integrated by a “tectonic box” – delineated by the mobile walls, it looks out through a small window running lengthways through the space. This “box” modulates and articulates the plan by organising the space along extensions of the structural elements; it encompasses the bathroom and kitchen areas (the bathroom and walk-in wardrobe are interior, the kitchen-bench and some truss elements are exterior); the sleeping area is accommodated at its top, where it is protected from the outside by sandblasted glass.
In redesigning all the exterior door and window fixtures it was decided to maintain the original industrial-style partitioned windows.
The Le Corbusier machine a habiter paradigm is reinterpreted as a ‘machine for living’ that reveals its ordering mechanisms: the mobile walls in stainless steel and iron punched plate, form filtering screens with various degrees of transparency; these delineate the courses and define the hierarchy among the spaces.
The entire floor area – including intermediate floor, bathroom and walk-in wardrobe – is in long larch staves, which thus serve as a unifying element. Yet, these spaces contained in the one ‘room’ undergo an unexpected alteration of scale, which is favoured by the contrast between the white walls throughout the space against the dark surface of a special linoleum.
The steps to the intermediary floor and the library, as well as the metal walls and the kitchen workbench structure, consciously evoke naval and industrial-style furnishings. The intention is to serve a style of living that seeks to embrace the continual modifying aspirations of contemporary life.
Despite the pre-existing subdivision of the area, the space suggests a container that is open to transformations. This factor permitted the architects to utilise it as a small laboratory of experiment on the interior space, which was conducted through a search to create solidarity also between semi-finished and industrial, ‘domesticated’ materials in the name of a contemporary dwelling – a world which has already designated traditional furnishing elements to our emotional and aesthetic spheres.