In Milan, with the conquest and reinvention of the three upper levels of a residential building from the period after World War II, a space that embodies a pathway balanced in all its parts, open to the surrounding urban landscape dominated by the “Torre Diamante” in steel and glass, in the perspective of the Porta Nuova project

When Claudio La Viola begins the design of a private interior, of medium or large size (like the one shown here), he gives the future residents a sort of questionnaire, asking them to describe their desires for a possible home, a space in which to live that is necessarily ‘sartorial’ in nature, made to measure for its inhabitants. The result is a bespoke design path, which together with the responses to expressed desires and functions addresses matters of architectural composition, like a three-dimensional portrait of the client.

For this project, La Viola has reconstructed, reassembled and reinvented three entire floors, radically reforming the spaces, extending from the tenth floor with the entrance and the bedroom zone, through a balanced, painstaking overlay of volumes, transforming the next level into a daytime area surrounded by a terrace, and concluding with a small pavilion, a room en plein air complementary to the internal spaces. The whole philosophy of the project prioritizes and pursues a close indoor-outdoor relationship, all the way up to the top level, which was once a bare flat roof inhabited by chimneys and antennae, and is now a sort of accessorized belvedere open to the skyline.

The spatial sequence starts from the entrance vestibule, offering an immediate glimpse of the material-chromatic palette of reference, with a few, precise substances and hues defining the spaces; rugged plaster in various burnished tones, smooth black slabs of MDI (Mineral Design Innovation), black aluminium for internal casements and steps, brass for grafts and custom lamps, dark open-pore oak for the complex paneling that perfectly conceals precious, necessaries storage compartments, formulating each room as a complete space and configuring a game of precise interlocks, with a focus on maximum comfort. The bedrooms are arranged around the entrance, each with its own bathroom, next to a fitness room with a large horizontal window facing the architectural complex of Porta Nuova, with the “Torre Diamante” (the tallest steel building in Italy, by the US-based studio Kohn Pedersen Fox), which seems to enter the space with its angular form.

The dark staircase leading to the living area captures light filtered through bamboo from the adjacent glazing, and takes us to a large unified space open to the outside on all sides, with various distinctive and highly recognizable zones. The lack of divider doors (with the exception of that of the professional kitchen) reflects the total design of the components deployed to define the proportions and character of the spaces. Paneling and clad pillars support overhanging shelf-seats in the form of an abstract usable sculpture. Partitions and volumes create glimpses and perspectives to bring the dining area with exposed kitchen and a pantry column together in a single tracking shot, for convivial cooking demonstrations. A conversation corner with a sofa in red velvet and a chandelier that suggests the magic of the mobiles of Alexander Calder becomes a hinge space prior to the dining room, where a wooden storage unit acts as a separation from the living zone, which is ‘set’ against a burnished plaster wall at the back.

Almost everything has been specifically designed; from the dining table with its variable geometric form, which with the bend of its top invites guests to have a seat on the timeless Catilina chairs by Caccia Dominioni, to many of the lamps; from the upholstered furnishings and carpets by Eco Contract, to the stools on the terrace and the tables by Sesia&Co. This attitude of ‘total control’ continues, in the finest tradition of interior design, putting the spatial project on a par and in tight sequence with the furnishings that inhabit that space.

The living area opens with full-height sliding glass doors towards the perimeter terrace, whose facing portion, with a wooden deck, becomes a direct extension of the internal space, where a continuous sofa is aligned with the planted outer border and a structure of sequential beams forms a small, effective mobile portico for shelter. The terrace continues with flooring in pale MDI to the opposite side, near the kitchen, in another open-air room for dining in the shade of a pergola.

Next to the living area, a staircase leads to the roof terrace. The series of steps in black steel is interrupted, leaving a luminous gap that eliminates two steps, replaced by a thick brass ribbon that descends from the ceiling to create a sort of structural portal marking the access to the final level.

Here another outdoor kitchen, with stools and a sofa shaded by plants, is a prelude to the solarium area, flanked by a swimming pool that extends towards the architectural context in a dizzying way; the glass balustrade eliminates any visual obstacles and underscores the sense of suspended space of the flat roof, skillfully transformed in a project that traces and invents the dimension of an ‘urban villa’ for the new millennium.

Project Claudio La Viola - Structural design Arturo Donadio - photos Andrea Martiradonna