The first World Architecture Festival awards were presented at the end of October at Barcelona, to their recipients, architects from all over the world, some already household names and some not. But the World Building of the Year Award went to the Luigi Bocconi University by the Irish practice Grafton Architects. The judges said that although not Milanese, the architects managed to distill the essence of the city into this one building.
Grafton Architects say that they saw this brief as an opportunity for the Luigi Bocconi University to
make a space at the scale of the city. What they did is a building at the
scale of the site,80m x160m. Inside, it is thought of as a
large market hall or place of exchange. The building’s hall acts as a
filter between the city and the university.
The northern edge of the site sits onto the busy artery of Viale Bligny,
with the clatter of trams, the rush of busses, general traffic, pedestrians
passing.Addressing the throbbing urban life of Milan, it weaves into
the mesh of the city, opening the life of the campus to the life of the rest of Milan. This facade becomes the architectural
opportunity to have a ‘window’ to Milan, a memorable image to confirm
the important cultural contribution that the Bocconi University plays
in the life of this city. For this reason, the public space of the Aula Magna occupies this frontage, asserting a symbolic presence and registering the prestigious status of the University.
The building is recessed at the Viale Bligny & Via Roentgen edges, thus forming a public space measuring 18m x 90m, inspired by the space forward of
Hospital Maggiore. This space "probe" reaches out to the
city and lures passers-by into the heart of the interior. It then continues into the building, bringing with it its stone
surface, the actual floor of the city.
To make this grand place of exchange Grafton Architects thought about the
research offices as beams of space, suspended to form a grand canopy, filtering light to all levels. Thus the offices form an inhabited
roofscape. This floating canopy allows the space of the city to overlap
with the life of the university; it allows the merging of internal and external public
spaces. The beehive world of academical research is physically separate but always visually connected to the life of the lower levels.
The underground accommodation is treated as an erupting landscape, offering support to the inhabited light filters above. Spatially this
underground world is solid, dense and sculpted. The architects tried in this way to establish a
continuity between the ‘landscape’ of the city and the ‘made landscape’
of this undercroft.
The external wall to the sunken Aula Magna reaches the full height of
the building with the upper level offices inhabiting it’s roofscape. The full bulk and scale of this great room, nicknamed by the architects ‘the embedded
boulder’, sits directly on the street edge and is the anchor for the
totality of the building.