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“Reflecting the motions of the sky”: a skyscraper for Pirelli

“The total glazing bonded in aluminium will reflect the motions of the sky”. This is how, in the pages of Pirelli magazine, the architect Carlo De Carli describes what the façade of the new Pirelli headquarters was going to look like. Designed by Gio Ponti and Giuseppe Valtolina, with the contribution of Pierluigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso, the Pirelli Tower opened in 1960. At the time, it was the tallest building in Milan and in Europe, and its facade was a continuous wall of aluminium and glass covering 9,500 square metres: a curtain wall covering the building, over the empty space between the vertical structures, and completely cladding the 31st floor of the building, from where one could enjoy a breath-taking view over the entire city.

With a ground plan measuring 18.5 metres across and about 70 metres long, tapering at the ends, the ratio between its width and height (127 metres) was far less than that of other skyscrapers, and it had never been tried out before in reinforced concrete buildings. The inner structure had load-bearing functions but also had to withstand to the action of the wind, with the lift shafts and services at the centre. This arrangement meant there would be no unused spaces. The interiors are spacious, bright and practical, thanks in part to the thin window-wall that separates the inside from the outer facade, which reflects “the motions of the sky” during the day and at night illuminates the building with its own light, making the Pirellone stand out against the bright skyline of Milan.

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“The total glazing bonded in aluminium will reflect the motions of the sky”. This is how, in the pages of Pirelli magazine, the architect Carlo De Carli describes what the façade of the new Pirelli headquarters was going to look like. Designed by Gio Ponti and Giuseppe Valtolina, with the contribution of Pierluigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso, the Pirelli Tower opened in 1960. At the time, it was the tallest building in Milan and in Europe, and its facade was a continuous wall of aluminium and glass covering 9,500 square metres: a curtain wall covering the building, over the empty space between the vertical structures, and completely cladding the 31st floor of the building, from where one could enjoy a breath-taking view over the entire city.

With a ground plan measuring 18.5 metres across and about 70 metres long, tapering at the ends, the ratio between its width and height (127 metres) was far less than that of other skyscrapers, and it had never been tried out before in reinforced concrete buildings. The inner structure had load-bearing functions but also had to withstand to the action of the wind, with the lift shafts and services at the centre. This arrangement meant there would be no unused spaces. The interiors are spacious, bright and practical, thanks in part to the thin window-wall that separates the inside from the outer facade, which reflects “the motions of the sky” during the day and at night illuminates the building with its own light, making the Pirellone stand out against the bright skyline of Milan.

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