The main entrance is from Via Andegari, a semiprivate street in the center of Milan (like a ‘wrinkle’ of Via Manzoni, very close to Teatro alla Scala): the gate on the street, the elegant courtyard hidden behind the wall, then the conciergerie and the ground floor rooms, which in the range of materials and colors, with marble and wood paneling, feature diamond-shaped inserts, tones of yellow, brick red, pastel green, evoking the charm of the bourgeois homes of the 1930s and 1940s. Villa Necchi Campiglio by Piero Portaluppi sets an example.
For guests arriving from all over the world to visit the city of Expo 2015, the address is that of the Mandarin Oriental Milan. A new entry (owned by Gruppo Statuto). There are two other entrances, from the parallel Via Monte di Pietà: one (in red) is for the bar, the other (in green) for the restaurant, facilities that also function independently, of great visual appeal. Not very Scala-like, for a city that favors understatement, also in the secret vitality of courtyards and gardens, which are three in number here, two of them for these exuberant spaces, set up as outdoor zones for socializing.
Welcome to the complexity of the project by Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel Interiors (project team: Ella Dinoi – project director, Francesca Carlino, Roger Colombo, Carmine D’Amore, Giuseppe Molteni, Macarena Paullier, Stefano Zeigner; lighting design Isometrix), which recovering and converting four historical buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries for new functions (including Palazzo Confalonieri), approaches spaces subjected in the past to very different renovation projects, creating an easily recognizable space-time sequence (especially in the elevations on Via Monte di Pietà), with specific materic-chromatic parameters, while new metal profiles mark the virtual row of courtyards to which the public spaces are anchored in a fluid succession.
“When you work for an international hospitality chair with an exotic character, like Mandarin Oriental of Hong Kong,” Patricia Viel explains, “the critical factor is to guarantee guests an authentic experience in an environment that has to conserve a precise connotation with respect to the identity of the brand, while also respecting the local spirit.”
This is the reasoning behind the dual soul of the place, expressing the cultural encounter between Milanese rigor – the linguistic roots of the architects – and the verve of a brand that in every location pays particular attention to the spa, a sector of excellence (in this case 900 m2, with a swimming pool, fitness treatment rooms and beauty facilities, in the basement, offering a holistic approach to wellness); and also to the common spaces, where are always very spectacular.
The interior design packs meanings, above all, into the space of the Mandarin Bar with its large central custom-made counter, a profusion of white and black marble, arranged like a mosaic on walls and floors for an Op Art effect, and the reflecting ceiling that makes the space perceptible from the outside.
Another strong point is the Seta Restaurant, for Italian cuisine, run by the award-winning chef Antonio Guida. Here the tone of reference is the Guatemala green of the marble that frames the windows on the courtyard, and the teal tone of the velvet on the armchairs designed by Antonio Citterio.
By contrast, in the 104 rooms (of which 32 are suites), on 5 levels, the project shifts register: welcome, intimacy, image combine in a soft neutrality to encourage total relaxation and a ‘Milanese’ atmosphere.
“We have reapplied the syntax of yesterday to the work of today, in a line of continuity with the tradition of the bourgeois homes of the 1940s and 1950s,” Viel continues. So while in the hall the leading role of the central fireplace suggests exclusive residential charm, while the floor in gray stone points to continuity with the outside world, in the private spaces the reconstruction of a certain way of designing interiors ventures into experimentation.
Other woods and marbles, crafted by hand, from Italy (with the exception of the blue-gray marble from Brazil in the bathroom of the presidential suite), encounter tailor-made furnishings, new types of tables on wheels, upholstered headboards, beige fabrics… and the added value of two theme suites on the first and second floors. A surprise.
“A new experience, for the studio,” says the architect, “intended to reinforce, inside the same compositional layout, an interpretation that references two great masters of our tradition: Piero Fornasetti and Gio Ponti. They were like two opposite poles: the first full of citations of imagery based on a very personal range of affects, from literature and lore; the second a theorist of geometry and primary colors, pure transcriptive rigor of architecture in decoration.” The interior becomes a narrative. Ad maiora!
text by Antonella Boisi
photos by Santi Caleca, George Apostolidis/courtesy Mandarin Oriental