The Velasca Tower in Milan has been one of the most discussed buildings at the end of the 50s decade. It represented a great icon of ideological transition between those who defended strict modernism (benchmark the International Style) and the application of technology in construction, and those who, on the other hand, were opened to a Regional Modernism (benchmark Lewis Mumford1); incorporating historical references to the design.
What was called functionalism was a one-sided interpretation of function […] The rigorists placed the mechanical functions of a building above its human functions; they neglected the feelings, the sentiments, and the interests of the person who was to occupy it.
– Lewis Mumford
Velasca Tower (Milan, 1958). Technology VS Historicism
- Architects: BBPR partnership. Gianluigi Banfi (1910-1945), Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso (1909-2004), Enrico Peressutti (1908-1976), Ernesto Nathan Rogers (1909-1968)
- Location: Milan, Italy
- Client: Sociedad General Immobiliare
- Function: the first 18 floors shops and offices and the after 26th are apartments
- Project Year: construction between 1956-1958
The ideals stated by the CIAM in the prewar times (Second World War) were completely opposed with this “Neoliberty” icon that still draws an ornamental contour in the skyline of Milan.
Even by the purely local standards of Milan and Turin, then, Neoliberty is infantile regression.
– Reyner Banham referring to Velasca Tower²
Velasca Tower mosaic (Ferrari, 2003)³
The Velasca’s Tower plot area was placed in the historical center of Milan, near to the Cathedral (Duomo). This context made the aesthetics definition a difficult task for the architects. The historical reminiscences may not confuse the observer, as its structure, far from being an outdated design, constituted excellent progress for the epoch (see the architectural plan at the image gallery below). There is a significant effort to improve the inner space by placing most of the structure in the façade.
The first sketches of the building were proposing a steel structure, but for cost reasons, eventually, a reinforced concrete structure was implemented. Regarding this matter, we could discard certain prejudices and to consider virtue the pragmatic approach of this project.
Once presented a comprehensive insight and with the privilege of watching the past events from a distance, we could probably give a better response to this question:
Does the Velasca Tower represent a discordant element in Milan’s fabric or denies the architectural principles of contemporaneity?
- “Bay Region Style” in his column “Status Quo,” The New Yorker, 11 (October 1947), pp. 108–109.
- Banham’s essay “The Italian Retreat from Modern Architecture,” Architectural Review, 125 (April 1959), p. 235.
- Alberto Ferrari, Le Azioni del Progetto, Mantova, Tre lune, 2003.