Working on the constructed context, taking existing urban structures as a resource through which to activate processes of transformation, and the idea of intervention in the city with micro-surgical urbanism, represent one of the paths taken with conviction on the international design scene. Also in Italy, strategies of reactivation and revitalization of entire blocks, reuse of abandoned factories and warehouses, restoration of precious historical estates, are being developed with energy and efficacy.

Today even businesses see the ‘reuse of history’ as one of the tools of planning and return-to-market of a substantially ‘different’ real estate product with respect to what is offered by the legacy of the Modern Movement, summed up in the formula of demolition-design-new construction.

Milan, alongside the major new worksites of CityLife and Porta Nuova, is also going through a ‘parallel’ process, scattered around the territory of the city. A complex process that pays close attention to the various histories of the specific cases where intervention is needed.

One example is the overall renovation of the historic Ca’ Litta, from the 1400s, seen on these pages. The project of urban mending, careful restoration of the older part facing Via Pantano next to the former hospital by Filarete that is now the home of the State University, and the transformation of the more recent volume facing Corso di Porta Romana, has been assigned to Studio Vittorio Grassi Architetto & Partners by Gruppo Unipol.

A project in the context of Urban Up, the group’s program of real estate renewal that sets out to revalue the buildings owned by Unipol, with a particular focus on those of greatest importance in terms of historical memory, monumental and symbolic value.

In the case of the recovery, transformation and restoration of the historic Ca’ Litta complex, with the courtyard connecting it to the refurbishment of the building from the postwar era on the opposite side of the block, Vittorio Grassi has operated with sensitivity, in the belief that: “Large cities offer less and less space for new, innovative, complex works of architecture.

The salvaging of what already exists is therefore a great opportunity to restore forgotten urban spaces to the community, to bring new life to small architectural gems. In this sense, Antica Ca’ Litta, whose roots date back to the 1400s, is a perfect example of synthesis between historical tradition and contemporary design, respect for our culture and the drive towards the future.”

In this direction, the project focuses on careful restoration of the older part, revealing the splendor of the frescoes on the first floor attributed to students of Andrea Appiani (1754-1817) and the stuccowork by Giocondo Albertolli (1742-1839). Particular care has gone into the recomposition of the historic facade with its gratings, wooden casements and wrought iron balconies, and of the external pavements and the courtyard.

The six levels will host 18 exclusive apartments, renovated not only in terms of the interior design and choice of materials, including fine marble and oak flooring, but also in terms of the physical plant systems skillfully concealed in the enveloping atmosphere of the domestic spaces. An internal system of green zones will connect the courtyard between Ca’ Litta and the more recent building on Corso di Porta Romana, subjected to more drastic transformation and recognizable for its intentional contemporary tone.

The six floors of this facility will be organized as open-plan offices accessed by means of a large ground floor lobby. In this case the project by Studio Vittorio Grassi carefully interprets the quality and decoration of the entire vertical extension of the two building, in both private and communal spaces. In the building facing Porta Romana, for harmonious insertion in the urban fabric, certain guidelines have been identified in the compositional process.

The redesign of the internal facades is combined with a new loggia created at the next to the last floor and, above all, with the new, large glass structure designed for the roof. This large luminous raised volume, made thanks to the demolition of the existing pitched roof, will contain a lounge area, executive offices and an exclusive meeting room equipped with a roof garden.

A new urban belvedere from which to take in, at a single glance, two icons of the architectural history of the city: the Ca’ Granda by Filarete and the Torre Velasca by BBPR, the latter of which is also part of the Urban Up program.

Text by Matteo Vercelloni

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Perspective section of the project: the historic Ca’ Litta facing Via Pantano, restored; the central connecting courtyard and, to the right, the building after World War II, subjected to more extensive restoration.
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Worksite photograph from the neighboring Torre Velasca (courtesy Studio Vittorio Grassi Architetto & Partners).
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Rendering of the central courtyard-passage.
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Rendering of the opposite view of the courtyard with, on the left, the new internal facade of the building on Corso di Porta Romana.
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Rendering of the raised glass volume, an urban viewing point for Torre Velasca and the Ca’ Granda by Filarete.
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Project rendering: the restored front of Ca’ Litta on Via Pantano.
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Rendering of the internal gallery with the original frescoes and stuccowork.
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Rendering of a living area with a more contemporary tone.