Welcome to the virtual tour of the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, which will take you through the history and rooms of this wonderful Renaissance building, now the official reception centre of the Pirelli Group. Here are some useful tips to give you a better browsing experience.
You can walk virtually through the rooms, moving in any direction, to whichever room or floor you like, using the arrows you see on the main screen.
A fixed icon at the top right gives you direct access to the various rooms and lets you examine the information that will enrich your virtual experience. Press the button at the bottom right to access this content. The Pirelli Foundation has selected documents and images that let you discover the history of the villa and its close bond with the company.
You can save time by pressing the button at the bottom left, which will take you directly to the next room.
Enjoy the tour!
The Pirelli Foundation staff
In the heart of the district
The variety of architectural styles in Pirelli’s current headquarters testifies to the many changes that have come about at the urban and social level in the Bicocca district of Milan since the beginning of the twentieth century. As a symbol of over a hundred years of industry, the tall cooling tower overlooks and interacts with the fifteenth-century Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, from which the whole area took the name “bicocanus” in the late fifteenth century. Architectural and urban transformations led to the creation of a cityscape of modern buildings, streets, squares, and university campuses that illustrate the history of Milan through both past and present: the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi now stands alongside the buildings of the residential, technological and university project designed from the 1980s onwards by the architect Vittorio Gregotti.
The cooling tower of the Pirelli factory in Milano Bicocca, 1960s
The Bicocca degli Arcimboldi and the cooling tower, cover of the Fatti e Notizie house organ, 1961
View of the U6 building of the University of Milano Bicocca. Photo: Ippi Studio, 2018
The cooling tower incorporated into the Pirelli Headquarters designed by Studio Vittorio Gregotti e Associati. Photo: Eleonora Salvatti, 2017
The Pirelli Research & Development Department in the Bicocca district of Milan, 2000s
A new factory for Pirelli
In the early years of the twentieth century, when production levels started rising, Pirelli began to consider the need to set up a new industrial site in addition to the one it already had in Via Ponte Seveso, next to the central station in Milan. In 1906, a plot of land on the border between the municipalities of Greco and Niguarda was chosen. The position was strategic, for it met some fundamental requirements such having good rail connections and being at a reasonable distance from the main factory. The plot selected was about five kilometres from the city. A second area, which also included the fifteenth-century Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, a country villa that, over the years, had passed through the hands of many aristocratic Milanese families (the Arcimboldis, Sormanis, Buscas, and Arconatis), was purchased by the Società Anonima del Quartiere Industriale Milano Nord and became the property of Pirelli in 1918. It is now the Group’s official reception venue.
The first view of the Pirelli factory in Milan in a replica by Salvatore Corvaja of a lost original, 1922
Plan of the Pirelli factory in Milano Bicocca, 1906
Bird’s-eye view of the Pirelli factory in Milano Bicocca, 1922
Plan of the enlargement of the Pirelli factory in Milano Bicocca, 1948
Plan of the Pirelli factory in Milano Bicocca, 1957
Milan: The City Rises
A vast process of industrialisation began in Milan in the early years of the twentieth century, heralding what was to become the heart of “The City Rises”, changing its look and paving the way for a new form of modernity. The process mainly involved new suburban areas in Milan, with the creation of manufacturing centres and urban development projects. The expansion plans also included one for the Quartiere Industriale Nord Milano, the “North Milan Industrial District”. Promoted by a group of industrialists headed by Ernesto Breda and Piero Pirelli, the plan was to create a large area of urban expansion running in a north-west direction. The project was based on the town-planning scheme drawn up by Cesare Beruto and presented by Giovanni Battista Pirelli in 1885. Approved in 1889, it was an operation that was also social in nature, including the expansion of residential areas outside of the city centre of Milan. Of the entire project, only the large district of Bicocca and the Borgo Pirelli were actually completed, but the expansion plan nevertheless shows that the idea was to make this part of the city a great urban hub for industry and trade.
Il Progetto Bicocca
The urban redevelopment project known as the “Bicocca Project” was one of the greatest urban transformation plans carried out in the Milan area between the 1980s and the 2000s. Keenly championed by the Pirelli Group and by its then president Leopoldo Pirelli, the redevelopment of this area of about one million square metres was planned by Studio Gregotti Associati. Their idea was to create a “city within a city”, redesigning industrial Milan to meet new functional criteria.
View of a part of the area involved in the Bicocca Project. Photo courtesy of the University of Milano Bicocca, 2017
The auditorium of the Pirelli Headquarters designed by Studio Gregotti e Associati. Photo: Don’t Movie, 2017
Cover of Renzo Piano’s project, 1985
Institutional advertisement to present the Bicocca Project, 1990s
Cover of the Fatti e Notizie house organ devoted to the works of the Bicocca Project, 1997
Technical drawing by Studio Gregotti for the design of the Pirelli Headquarters, 1988
View of the Pirelli Milano Bicocca factory, 1960s