Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara from Grafton Architects have been named the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates. In 2008 they completed the Luigi Bocconi University that was praised as a “magical subterranean realm” by the judges of the World Architecture Festival including Robert Stern, Richard Burdett and Cecil Balmond.
University Luigi Bocconi Technical Information
- Architecture Firm: Grafton Architects
- Principal Architects: Yvonne Farrell & Shelley McNamara
- Location: Milan, Italy
- Material: Concrete
- Typology: Educational Architecture / University
- Client: Universita Luigi Bocconi, Nicolo Di Blasi
- Contractor: GDM Construzioni S.p.a
- Size: 45,000 m2 (65,000m2 including parking and technical areas)
- Project Managers: Progetto CMR
- Structure and Civil: Studio Ingegneria E.Pereira
- Project Completed: 2008
- Drawings: © Grafton Architects
- Photographs: © Maxime Glati-Fourcade
We saw this brief as an opportunity for the Luigi Bocconi University to make a space at the scale of the city. To this end we have built at the scale of the site, 80 m x 160 m. Inside, our building 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.
– Grafton Architects
University Luigi Bocconi Photographs
Text from the Architects
A Window to Milan
The northern edge of the site fronts onto the artery of Viale Bligny, with the clatter of trams, the rush of busses, general traffic, people passing. It addresses the throbbing urban life of Milan, weaves into the mesh of the city. This frontage 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 a register of the prestigious status of the University.
The building is set back from the Viale Bligny & Via Roentgen edges to make a public space 18m x 90m inspired by the space forward of Hospital Maggiore. This new deep ‘finger’ of space reaches out to the city and beckons the visitor into the heart of the interior. This public space continues into the building, bringing with it it’s stone surface, the floor of the city.
In order to make this grand place of exchange we thought about the research offices as beams of space, suspended to form a grand canopy which filters light to all levels. The offices form an inhabited roofscape. This floating canopy allows the space of the city to overlap with the life of the university. Allows internal and external public spaces to merge. The beehive world of the research is physically separate but always visually connected to the life of the lower levels
The underground accommodation is treated as an erupting landscape which offers support to the inhabited light filters above. Spatially this underground world is solid, dense and carved. We tried 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 /attic. The full bulk and scale of this great room ‘the embedded boulder’ sits directly on the street edge and is the anchor for the totality of the building
University Luigi Bocconi Plans and Model
University Luigi Bocconi Image Gallery
About Grafton Architects
Yvonne Farrell (1951) and Shelley McNamara (1952) met during their collegiate studies at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin. They studied under rationalist architects who had newly arrived to challenge the preexisting thought and culture of the institution.
Grafton Architects was the recipient of the 2012 Biennale di Venezia Silver Lion Award for the exhibition, Architecture as New Geography. They were awarded the RIAI James Gandon Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture by the RIAI in 2019 and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal and the Pritzker Price in 2020.