ENI has a history of constructing office buildings out of universal organizational principles. Since the methane molecule inspired Primo Palazzo Uffici in the 1950’s, each decade has added a perfect structure to the ENI campus making it an accumulation of office icons of almost molecular organizational clarity.
As Methanopolis begins to merge with San Donato it is commencing a gradual transformation from office park to urban neighborhood. Fenced off industrial complexes start to give way to more urban sequences of squares and plazas, streets and parks. In remaking and redefining its historical industrial complex, ENI’s new buildings will be a significant catalyst of this urban transformation from industry to city.
Rather than a fragmented accumulation of singular objects we propose to create an urban perimeter block of continuous street walls and green courtyards. The courtyard undulates along the perimeter of the site creating a continuous workspace adapted to the surrounding cityscape and the flow of people across the site.
The resultant workspace combines maximum flexibility with continuous variation.
The building envelope is the membrane that filters daylight and sunshine in to the workspaces. A workspace requires the paradoxical combination of maximum daylight and minimum solar exposure and glare. The architecture of the façade resolves this dilemma.
We propose a façade that is simultaneously non-mechanical, low maintenance and high performance. The simplest and most efficient form of sunshading is exterior louvers. However as the sun moves across the sky the ideal position and orientation of the louver shifts from vertical in the east and the west blocking the low angle rays of the morning and afternoon sun – to horizontal in the south to shade the high angle rays from the noon sun.
As the curvilinear geometry of the perimeter block continuously changes orientation the ideal orientation of the louvers changes along with it. As a consequence the facades are swept in a continuously varying pattern of linear louvers.
Like the ripples on the seabed or the lines in a human fingerprint the louvers create an organic yet purely rational pattern on the façade generated by the optimal performance of the façade.
Defined by the specific latitude of Milan and the specific geometry of the architecture the façade constitutes a sort of universal vernacular- a universal response to daylight and sunshine – adapted specifically to the specific conditions in terms of context, culture and climate. Finished in local sandstone alternatively fibre enforced concrete stirred with the local sand, the façade appears to change from solid to transparent, from abstract to concrete, from light to heavy. An architectural expression distilled from pure performance.