Stefano Boeri Architects have a unique vision for futuristic architecture infused with living vegetation, incorporating thousands or even millions of plants into their designs. From their “Tower of the Cedars” high-rise with its facade covered in evergreen trees to a utopian smart city in Mexico and even a recent campaign creating vaccination pavilions in the shape of flowers, the firm’s approach emphasizes our intrinsic need for a connection with nature. Next, they’ll team up with Diller Scofidio + Renfro to refresh the Pirelli 39 site in Milan.
Built in 1950, the 26-story Pirellino Tower hosted the headquarters of Italian tire company Pirelli until 2015, when it was abandoned over concerns about its ability to withstand earthquakes and its environmental performance. The site itself, set in a prime urban location, is currently underutilized and not very pedestrian-friendly. Boeri’s plan aims to revive the area, creating a new hub for events and exhibitions.
While the Pirellino Tower’s renewal champions the value of reusing old buildings rather than demolishing them, it will also become a cultural symbol for a new era of architecture and development that prioritizes meeting current and future environmental and social emergencies over all else. The two towers will be connected by a stunning multi-story glass bridge stretching over the Via Melchiorre Gioia, one of Milan’s busiest roads, and act as an extension of the nearby Biblioteca degli Alberi, a public park and botanical garden.
Stefano Boeri’s residential timber tower will be quite a sight with its layers of trees and shrubs contrasting with the glass and steel of the older tower beside it. Covering a surface area of more than 18,000 square feet, that vegetation will change colors with the seasons, absorb 14 tons of carbon dioxide, and produce nine tons of oxygen every year. It’ll also be covered in nearly 30,000 square feet of photovoltaic panels providing at least 65 percent of the building’s energy needs. And since the tower’s design is predominantly made from wood, another 3,600 tons of carbon dioxide will be saved during the construction process.
The regeneration project, helmed by development firm COIMA, will be the first in Italy to align with the new post-COVID Next Generation EU guidelines to meet the highest standards of sustainability. The collaborative design was chosen from a shortlist of 70 concepts as the winner of a 2019 international architecture competition. While it’s just the latest of many Italian projects for Stefano Boeri, Pirelli 39 represents Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s first time working in the country.
“As much of our work focuses on the future of cities, the Pirelli 39 project presents a great opportunity to develop a new model of mixed-use development and sustainable urban growth,” says Elizabeth Diller, partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, adding that “the project combines the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings with environmentally-responsible new construction, and a vibrant ‘living’ cultural destination devoted to the art and science of plants.”
“In such a difficult period, this project relaunches the vision of a forward-looking Milan and bravely faces the great challenges of the climate crisis,” says Stefano Boeri.