The design of the WOMB tower is based on four general criteria that can be summarised by four key words: identity, structure, nature and sustainability.
The initial reasoning behind the project revolves around the concept of identity and specificity. In the last decade, the urban development of the city of Milan has seen a marked change of pace compared to the past, characterised by the proliferation of tall buildings that have radically changed its skyline. In most cases, these buildings find their raison d'être in the search for formal originality "at all costs" with the aim of astonishing and making people talk about them. The result is a generic architectural production that can be found everywhere in the world.
It seemed to us necessary and necessary, since we had to design a tower in Milan, to work on some identity elements and on the character of Milanese architecture, so that the new tower would be able to fit into its context, not as an extraneous object, but ideally continuing a history and a writing that comes from afar.
To reinforce the concept from the settlement point of view too, the decision was made to place the new tower along the two streets bordering the lot so as to ideally mend the shape of the block, thus remedying the interruption created by the existing building which does not respect its layout. Although the tower, from a type-morphological point of view, is by definition an artefact that is difficult to relate to an organic element of the urban fabric, understood as a structured set of buildings and open spaces, in the case of WOMB, we worked to build a strong geometric and spatial correspondence between the new artefact and the surrounding urban space.
Analysing the morphology of Milan's tall buildings, the recurring characteristic is verticality; a verticality that refers not so much to the architectural object as to the structure. So we imagined a tower that could be built starting from the design of the structure: a structure that lightens upwards like the spires of the Duomo; that at times stands out from the shell like the rampant arches in Gothic cathedrals or the ribs of the Velasca tower. It is therefore the structure that articulates and gives form to the space: through a vertical development along which it bends and, splitting, includes both internal and external spaces. The triangular pillars, set at regular intervals of 2.70 m and measuring 60 x 120 cm at the base, taper upwards as the normal stresses diminish. In WOMB, the form of the structure and the image of the building coincide, in an instance of truth and transparency.
The third element with which the WOMB tower is built is nature: greenery, air and light penetrate the building and erode its boundaries.
We have tried, without rhetoric, to overcome the cliché of closed and sealed offices, where air cannot circulate naturally, imagining a tower that offers the possibility of interacting with the outside, of opening up to a natural space. On each floor the building will have a livable outdoor space: a terrace, a loggia, where you can stay, where you can relax between meetings, where you can work outside when the weather permits. To do this, the external structure detaches itself from the envelope, from the physical limit of the internal space, to incorporate air, light and greenery.
Two gardens conclude the sequence of vertical green spaces: on the ground floor, protected by the ribs of the structure, the café garden; a place open to the city for an outdoor lunch or for refreshment after a day's work. On the roof, in homage to Lucca's Guinigi tower, there is a small wood of holm oaks which ideally concludes the sequence of open spaces.
Two main objectives were pursued: firstly, to minimise the impact of the new construction on the environment not only during its construction but throughout its life by reducing its energy requirements to a minimum; secondly, to create an NZEB building, energy independent for a good part of the year. To achieve the first objective, work was carried out mainly on the façades, increasing the energy efficiency of the system, reducing the percentage of glass surfaces thanks to a special shaping of the structural elements, and analysing the shadows cast by the structure itself and by the vegetation elements.
For the second objective, various strategies were adopted, including a significant amount of photovoltaic power in the opaque portions of the façade and the use of groundwater to support the heat pumps.
By implementing these and other strategies, it will be possible to obtain sustainability, well-being and energy certifications such as LEED and WELL. Finally, particular attention will be paid to obtaining WIRED certification to ensure a satisfactory and redundant connection necessary for the new way of working.
Client: Reale Immobili
Programme: Office building
Dates: Completion 2023
Area: 6.600 sqm
Design: Labics (Maria Claudia Clemente, Francesco Isidori)
Project team: Silvia Gronchi, Tommaso Mennuni, Giulia Spagnuolo
Consultants: Structures and facilities: Arup Italia