Yesterday it was an emblematic workplace, a modern model of industrial growth, connected with the name of the engineer Gianni Caproni, one of the pioneers of aviation. Today it is something else, but it has not lost its original pioneering instinct.
Once through the gate at Via Mecenate 79, in the green eastern outskirts of Milan, near the Linate Airport, walking along the internal pedestrian street, the message is perceived loud and clear: we’re inside Gucci, the new Gucci, where since September, after three years of construction, the area (35,000 square meters) that was once the Caproni factory at the start of the 20th century, abandoned for over 50 years, can demonstrate all its potential.
A dimension of great charm, a dialogue with history, even a different contemporary identity: showroom, space for fashion shows, managerial offices, marketing and communication facilities, all reunited and connected in a single site, where the spaces are open for a fluid quality of life in the workplace.
A place of dynamism and circulation of ideas, for about 400 persons, in keeping with the concept of learning organization of a campus. Every zone is different from the next, personalized, tailored.
The furnishings and decorations are all one-of-a-kind pieces, discovered with the patience and passion of the antiquarian: theater seats, old English pub counters, marble tables, precious chairs in wood and leather with studded borders, vintage screens, capitonné paneling with red velvet, white porcelain, wallpaper, carpets and much more. All this generates a precise allure, in spite of the cement floors that are the earmark of the spaces.
The accent is on the Italian know-how of craftsmen and manufacturers, always ready to convey new stimuli, new surprises. Thanks to the vision of the creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, the man behind the concept of this metamorphosis, orchestrating the image down to the smallest details. Because in the citadel original colors and atmospheres sustain and share in the new challenges of the brand, transfiguring reality into an enveloping setting of reminders and references.
Interview with Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucci
History and modernity, past and future. What is the meaning of this facility in the new approach of Gucci, also in relation to the already existing facilities of the brand?
The meanings are many, and all closely connected. The new Gucci Hub, symbolically enough, opens after 21 months in which the brand and the company have been extensively reinvented. As if the physical movement of the Milan offices were a way of closing the circle of what has been done in nearly two years of work, though actually we are just at the beginning.
We have changed our skin, in a profound way, with great enthusiasm. Everything began thanks to the original vision of the creative director Alessandro Michele, his new aesthetic which at first split the fashion world in two, and is now making Gucci the hottest brand of the moment.
The change has emerged in these months in a coherent way in all the points of contact with the consumer: first the new store concept (starting with the Gucci store on Via Montenapoleone in Milan), then the new website, the new packaging, the window displays. And now the new headquarters in Milan.
Also in this case, we have demonstrated that we have courage and are willing to take risks, to do things in a different way. In this sector if you don’t change you end up being just a follower. The new Gucci Hub contains the managerial offices and the central offices of institutional and strategic functions, including merchandising, marketing and communication, so it represents the center of excellence of the corporate functions of Gucci.
Florence, the historic headquarters and the true core of the brand, with over 1300 employees, is the center of excellence for manufacturing and craftsmanship; Rome, home of the Style Office, is the center of excellence for creativity. In these months we have worked a great deal on the concept of a learning organization, namely a widespread corporate culture where every person is encouraged to take risks, to do things in a different way, where mistakes are allowed because they are the only way to generate innovation and change.
So the Gucci Hub in Milan sets out to be the concrete expression of this culture that is pervading the whole company, and should become the foundation of the success of Gucci.
Via Mecenate 79, Milan, the address of the former Caproni factory: a place with a strong historical and architectural identity; a single thread connecting yesterday and today. In this place, ideas and intelligence continue to be produced, with research, experimentation and creativity. How has the choice of revitalizing an outstanding situation of industrial archaeology, in a context away from the city center but with logistical appeal (arrival, departure, transit), become crucial for the definition of a contemporary workplace of very high functional, organizational, aesthetic and image quality?
It is very crucial indeed. The area offers enormous spaces; when you enter it, you realize you are part of an ambitious, modern, innovative project. The heights, the spaces, the colors and the light, together with the interior design, which is the maximum expression of the style of Alessandro Michele, create something extraordinary.
We want to make this structure into a true campus, with the desire to take maximum advantage of the spaces. The idea, over time, is to make it also become a center of cultural exchange. Once all the work has been completed, the headquarters will contain a tree-lined plaza, gardens, patios, green walls. The gardens and all these spaces offer the possibility of living moments that are not connected only to the life of the office, putting the central accent on quality of life in the workplace. Furthermore, the structure itself has been designed to create harmony and continuity between indoor and outdoor spaces: all the offices and functions are positioned along the central street that works as a connection, leading to the covered plaza, the center of the whole complex.
Can this be seen as a project in progress, subject to transformations and evolutions, already being planned?
There are already many ideas, some of which still need to be developed. It is certain that in February 2017 the new spaces of the Gucci Hub will host the first combined fashion show of Gucci, inside the renovated space that was once the hangar of the Caproni factory.
All the spaces of the Gucci Hub have been conceived for teamwork, to grant concrete expression to the spirit of cooperation and interaction of our organization. It is also important that for the first time all the Gucci staff in Milan will work in the same space, something that had never happened before.
The architectural design
The renovation of the former Caproni complex, with later additions stripped away, and after structural consolidation, has been done by the Milan-based architecture firm Piuarch (Francesco Fresa, Germán Fuenmayor, Gino Garbellini, Monica Tricario, partners since 1996) in collaboration with the Gucci technical team.
“The layout is the result of the interface of the needs for maximum functional, organizational and image efficiency of Gucci, and our work of reinterpretation of this specific urban context, which has become the site of a philological restoration, but also of compositional reinvention to adapt to the company’s activities,” says Gino Garbellini.
In a landscape featuring two row of industrial sheds from 1915 with an internal street of reference, which was once for vehicles (connected to the nearby Taliedo aerodrome, used for the testing of the biplanes and triplanes of Caproni) and is now a pedestrian axis, the project first of all focused on a language of recovery.
Starting with that of the red brick facades punctuated by decorative stone inserts of the historic buildings, where the only new features are the window frames and the external gutters and drainpipes. The spaces have all be reconfigured as showrooms: large open zones, paced by regular spans, with slender metal sections, flooded with light thanks to large transparent glazings, but also thanks to skylights that punctuate the arrangement of the roofing tiles.
The showrooms extend towards the large covered outdoor plaza, at the back, where the impressive hangar (as big as a football field) was the place for the assembly of the aircraft. This has also been salvaged, and set aside as the space for Gucci fashion shows: a flexible ‘grand palais’ embraced by a continuous full-height curtain in custom fabric, with personalized decorations.
The plaza is the connection for all the buildings, the symbolic heart of this ideal campus-city: a gathering place around which all the activities are organized, in a constant rhythm of ratios and proportions. To the left the glazing bordering the catering space opens, while at the center there is the entrance to the fashion show space, and on the right full-height rotating panels offer flexible opening and closing of a space for events.
The new tower for the offices is set slightly apart. The latter stands in a corner and breaks up the symmetry of the layout, filling in the gap left behind by two buildings that collapsed. It becomes a new gravitational pole with an essential image, enlivened by evocative lighting effects in the evening, when it becomes like a lantern.
Glass facades on four sides, paced by a pattern of black and metal sunscreens, slightly staggered in terms of section, for a height of seven stories. A standard rectangular floor plan with the service block at the center and the offices arranged all around. With its terse, modern image this volume produces a useful contrast with the red brick walls of the neighboring historical buildings.
This nurtures a game of full and empty zones, in which the design of green features becomes the medium with which to construct a fluid transition between communal open spaces or leftover zones, outdoors and indoors, old and new. The grove of linden trees along Via Mecenate, the sequence of distributed gardens, the green walls and roof of the tower, all have a role as a connective tissue in the precise strategy of Piuarch to conserve the homogeneous image of all the parts.
Just consider the fact that the basement – 15,000 square meters for parking (300 cars), archives and storage – was built after having raised, dismantled and reconstructed the buildings, without any demolition (only the offices from the 1960s and 1970s were demolished, since they had no architectural relationship with the original buildings).
Last but not least: the complex has gained LEED Gold certification, indicating it as a paradigmatic example of reference. The facility regulates hot/cold temperature exchange by using ground water, making it possible to avoid the machinery of air conditioning systems on the roofs. And to eliminate their noise.
Photos by Andrea Martiradonna – Text by Antonella Boisi