The Pirellone: The Story of a Skyscraper
The first Pirelli factory was built in Via Ponte Seveso in 1873, and it remained as the headquarters of the Group even after the second factory opened in the Milano Bicocca district in 1908. It was destroyed in a bombing raid in August 1943 and there was no way it could be brought back to life. The “Brusada”, the factory built in 1890 for the manufacture of bicycle tyres, right in front of the first one, was also destroyed by the bombing. Pirelli thus decided to build a brand-new executive and administrative headquarters on the site of the first factory in central Milan, leaving production operations to the Bicocca plant. In the spring of 1955, the company started construction work on this new building: a 31-storey skyscraper, 127 metres tall, with over seven thousand square metres of floorspace.
It was to herald not only the rebirth of the company, but also to become a symbol of the rebirth of Italy after the war. As the building grew taller, the barriers around the construction site were covered in advertisements and visual impressions. Gio Ponti, the architect, wanted fixtures and furniture for the “Pirellone” that would reflect the ground plan of the building, from the shape of the tables to the coloured linoleum on the floors. The new “Pirelli Centre” was opened in April 1960, and life in the “Tower”, with its American-style open spaces, soon became that of a little city within the city of 1960s Milan. But in 1968 economic crises began to shake the world and in 1978 the Pirelli Tower was sold to Lombardy Region.
Let’s enter the life of a building that for sixty years has been a feature of the skyline of Milan and see how “the city rises”.