Babel / Milan – Torre Velasca

Torre Velasca is a skyscraper built in 1956, in Milan. Its architects, Gian Luigi Banfi, Lodovico Barbiano di Belgioioso, Enrico Peressuti and Ernest Nathan Rogers, were the BBPR partners, a group of architects that designed many famous Italian post-modern buildings.

Torre Velasca is 106 meters high (348ft) and counts 26 floors. Its mushroom-like shape made the historians conjecture that BBPR partners aimed at reinterpreting the shape of a typical medieval house, the tower. I think they were pursuing a more ambitious plan, trying to break the limits of the most common architectural canon: the higher you go, the thinner your building.

Even before the construction was completed, Torre Velasca claimed to be one of the most striking appearances in the Milanese skyline. The Società Generale Immobiliare commissioned the BBPR architects a building of both residential and tertiary use. The quartet, at first, projected a simple and transparent building with a curtain wall[1], soon transformed into a tripartite construction tapered downwards. Neither one of the two first project was finalized. Starting from the idea of a tower, the architects came out with the original “mushroom-like” shape, forcedly innovating the contemporary concept of a skyscraper.


Picture courtesy of: Art Tribune

There are some physical constraints in building a tower like this. BBPR inverted the construction dogma, making a small base hold a taller and bigger one above. To prevent the construction appear excessively stiff the architects increased the openings and voids at the top, emptying the corners of the upper floors, arranging windows in a more free way, almost casual, and putting a loggia on the last storey. The ribs in reinforced concrete give compactness and lightness to the building at the same time.


Picture courtesy of: EsploraMilano

I am no expert in construction, but Torre Velasca is the contemporary building I love the most in Milan. It is imposing and moderate at the same time, majestic and humble all in one. A curious mix of ambition and urban esthetic, a sort of Babel Tower I would expect to came out from a science fiction novel.

[1] Source: Ordine degli Architetti di Milano. http://www.ordinearchitetti.mi.it/en/mappe/itinerari/edificio/724-torre-velasca/17-milano-alta


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