NEXXT, the new Fastweb headquarters in Milan, becomes the first step in a project for the redesign and conversion of an increasingly strategic urban area between the future transformation of the Porta Romana rail yard, the already operative Fondazione Prada facility (designed by OMA) and the activities of the Symbiosis master plan, which Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel have developed for the Covivio group, part of the overall regeneration of the former industrial zone in the Romana-Vetabbia district. An innovative plan conceived to make new constructions interact with the urban fabric in a perspective of formation of new public spaces for the city.
“The quality of the buildings that will be made in the area,” the designers say, “is expressed in the nature of their relationship with the context. The ground floors, as semi-public spaces, will be designed and outfitted for novel uses. In the case of the Fastweb headquarters, these uses involve a veranda on the water, and the terrace of the cafe below the elevated volume.” In this direction, the large glass volume of NEXXT creates a square (Piazza Adriano Olivetti) with the volumes of Fondazione Prada as its backdrop. A new urban place formed by a controlled succession of environmental situations, from woods to a ruderal garden with pools of water, designed by Carlo Masera.
“The ruderal garden and the composition of its plants incorporate the existing garden featuring shrubs typical of industrial areas, and spontaneous grasses that had already colonized the area after its abandon. The new building and square are bordered by three pools of water, connected by a sequence of run-offs that follow the natural slope of the terrain. Every action has been studied to boost biodiversity and ecosustainability, responding to a collective desire for a return to nature in the city.”
NEXXT is part of this ‘holistic’ approach to urban sustainability, in which the two letters X return in constructed form in the crossed beams supporting the volume perched over the reflecting pool. While like many corporate facilities of the new generation NEXXT has received LEED Platinum certification (with the highest score in the international rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council for the high levels of sustainability of the external enclosure, the design and construction of the interiors, and the physical plant systems and materials utilized), the project also goes beyond those parameters.
The sustainability factor becomes the guiding concept in the configuration of the entire building in terms of performance and of achievement of the innovative concept of the smart workplace, a flexible, dynamic space, adaptable to different types of activity as they develop. Therefore NEXXT, on an overall constructed area of 21,500 square meters with five levels, ready to welcome about 1400 employees, offers high levels of performance in terms of savings of energy and water.
These results are achieved by means of photovoltaic panels on the roof, the choice of sustainable construction materials (99% of the waste produced in the construction cycle has been recycled, while 25% of the total cost of the materials is derived from recyclable sources, 34% is of regional origin, and 93% of the wood comes from certified suppliers); as well as the design of the completely glazed facades (over 86% of the internal workspaces receive natural light, while 97% have direct views of the outside world). The products utilized are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC), the bath fixtures reduce wasted water, and preferential parking places (over 5% of the 350 available spots) are set aside for low-emission vehicles powered by alternative fuels.
The design process has focused on energy and water efficiency, limited the environmental impact of the facility. The choices of insulation and the use of glass for optimized screening and light transmission, the deployment of natural light sensors and automated lighting control systems, and the centralized production of warm and cool fluids with multifunctional heat pumps do the rest: all this permits reduction of overall energy consumption of 43% with respect to a traditional building, in addition to the fact that 5% of the consumption in the entire complex is provided by photovoltaic generators. All the systems have been designed to prevent consumption of potable water for the irrigation of green areas, instead using recycled water and rainwater; the criteria applied permit a 50% reduction of consumption of potable water for internal use.
This ‘intelligent machine’ thus outlined in terms of performance is flanked by sustainable choices applied in the configuration of the workspaces, which get beyond the obsolete concept of open-plan offices (maximum exploitation of space without fixed divisions, with separate managerial offices) to offer a smart workplace, a free environment in which to organize different working modes and methods over time. “Creative, collaborative and individual activities” are the categories of reference to replace closed offices and fixed arrays of workstations into flexible spaces organized in terms of corporate teamwork.
In this open, mutable space, all employees, including the executives, can choose where and with whom to work, in keeping with a logic of free seating; it is possible to reserve positions using a special Fastweb app that responds to the need to shift a series of services and activities related to personnel into a digital dimension of greater mobility. In this approach to work that can change its configuration even from day to day, the landline telephones on desktops have disappeared, replaced by wi-fi headsets and corporate mobile phones, in keeping with the widespread paradigm of “working anywhere.”
In the complex design process, the factor of participation becomes a central issue: sharing and co-design are the guiding concepts for the company in the creation of this new headquarters, where employees have been involved in the configuration of the entire building through workshops, interviews and encounters with the architects.
Project Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel - Landscape design Carlo Masera - Photos Paolo Riolzi