È un piacere incontrare Ezio Riva, architetto con un côte fashion coltivato in importanti lavori per brand del lusso e una grande maestria nel realizzare progetti di cura sartoriale traslati anche in ambito residenziale. Come questo, realizzato a Milano per una famiglia cinese che ha un legame di lavoro e di vita ancora forte con l’Estremo Oriente, in particolare con Shanghai. Si tratta di un palazzetto fine Ottocento nato come villa unifamiliare, situato appena all’esterno delle Mura Spagnole. “I committenti vi hanno individuato il contenitore ideale per accogliere la loro sofisticata collezione di arredi, pezzi d’arte e accessori antichi, manufatti che hanno un filo diretto con radici e passioni, insieme a un design made in Italy di eccelsa manifattura”, racconta l’architetto Riva. “È un’architettura di stile eclettico/liberty, fatta di mattoni a vista, cementi decorativi, logge e torrette, heritage del piano Beruto (1884-1889), che aveva tracciato il progetto di ampliamento di Milano e, in prossimità della Piazza d’Armi, aveva definito una zona di salvaguardia anche nell’ornato delle aree giunte pressoché intonse fino ai nostri tempi”.
“The architecture is in eclectic/Liberty style, with exposed brick, concrete decorations, loggias and turrets, a legacy of the Beruto Plan (1884-89), which outlined the project of expansion of Milan, and near the Piazza d’Armi had defined a zone to be protected, also in terms of the styling of the areas, which has remained nearly intact down to the present.” The privilege of interpreting and connecting these different spirits, exploring the spatial complexity of an encoded type, has translated into its breakdown with an expressionistic accentuation of forms and volumes oriented towards configuration of modern livability with an international tone, not above requirements of image and hospitality.
“In substance, I tried to bring the layout of the spaces as close as possible to its original condition, which a project from the mid-1980s had altered, even in the arrangement of the slabs and the vertical organization. In particular, I repositioned the internal staircase, putting it back where it was, while rethinking the finishes and functions of the rooms. On the outside, which was well conserved, the project addressed only the facades, replacing the windows that had been applied to the loggias and the top of the turret.”
New iron casements, reduced in their cross-section to vanish behind the Liberty columns, now frame the perspective from these spaces towards the city, recreating the appearance of the original openings. In the interiors, the point of balance and transition was reached by combining and opening the rooms, for an uninterrupted perception of spatial fluidity, maintaining certain vertical elements of structural necessity with still visible signs of the original layout. This can be seen above all in the living area on the ground floor, redesigned as an ample single space, stylistically consistent in the pathways of the various islands and formal or informal zones, gravitating around the helical staircase connecting the five levels of the house. This has become the forceful feature of the narrative, a rugged sculptural object of striking impact: the vertical structure and parapets in Cor-ten, the iroko wood steps, forming a sort of ‘runner’ in apparent continuity with the dark wood floors, some of which already existed, reinstalled with aligned joints on the various levels.
“Actually, this volume takes on a catalyzing image above all in the central core, an elliptical pillar in Cor-ten with laser-cut openings that offer a view of the internal part, and the gilded sheet metal caps that contain the vertical lighting system,” Ezio Riva explains. Lighting design has played a decisive role in the reformulation of the relationships between zones in the domestic landscape, characterized by important works of art as well as oriental antiques that establish a dialogue with sophisticated furniture and accessories of modern design, with fine Italian workmanship. The lights precisely enhance the paintings, but they have also been concealed in the new suspended plaster ceilings over the main spaces, to construct soft, velvety atmospheres, with classic but contemporary moods.
Otherwise, the timbre and rhythm of the project have been entrusted to a variety of virtuous juxtapositions, with a very refined palette of materials and colors, deployed on silks and velvets, with red lacquer and bronze-finished brass, marble, wood, inlays, like a De Stijl undercurrent creatively reinterpreted. In this sense, the item that best conveys this savoir faire on a symbolic level is represented by the doors in ivory lacquered wood with inserts of brass, mirrors and frosted glass, by the same craftsman who had made them during the previous renovation in the 1980s. He was able to replicate the original model from scratch, where the doors were no longer available for salvaging and restoration; in the process, he has also produced the custom furnishings. Other threads that are picked up and reconnected in time and in the history of a place, to be respected, protected and passed on.
Architectural and interior design Ezio Riva Milano - Project team Francesco Tagliero, Marco Venegoni - Structural works Elena Formenti - Photos Filippo Bamberghi