Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
When UniFor approached us to design their new showroom in Milan we didn’t have to think twice: firstly, is it located on the ground floor of the Feltrinelli building we completed in 2016; secondly, we have a long-standing relationship and a number of successful collaborations with UniFor for the fit-out of some of our key architectural projects such as Asklepios 8 for Novartis in Basel, the Public Hotel at 215 Chrystie in New York, the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, and of course the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in Milan. It was only a matter of course that we would design their new home in Milan.
UniFor as a company has a strong focus on systems, scale, and architecture. The decision to leave their longstanding showroom in Corso Matteotti to move to this new location is a strong statement – it sits in a neighbourhood that represents the “new” Milan, which stands for development, technology, and lifestyle. Our design for their new showroom is not only a space to present their latest products, but also a window into how UniFor works, and what their technical capabilities are – the showroom itself becomes the exhibit.
Rather than competing with the simplicity of the architecture of the Feltrinelli building, the showroom is designed as a fully integrated space. It extends the main themes set by the building – scale, structure, repetition, and its precise position in the urban context. The structural skeleton of the Feltrinelli building, the repetitive rotated square column, and the angular cut by 45 degrees express the geometrical conditions of the site while forming a base for the interiors of the showroom. The transparency of the building is equally enhanced as its two “faces”, towards the city and the newly created garden square “Passegiata Boris Pasternak”. The showroom is conceived as a kaleidoscope of transparency, reflection, and color – continuously changing depending on the point of view of the visitor or passer-by.
The entire interior of the showroom is based on a system that we have specifically designed and developed together with UniFor for this purpose. It is a single 90-degree extrusion profile and panel system that can be configured in many ways. It can be used as a wall cladding, a free-standing screen, moveable partition wall, or shelving system. Options for panel materiality include metal, textile, wood, and plaster, allowing for walls and partitions with very specific characters and physical properties.
The showroom is defined by a robust yet simple flexibility. It has no separate rooms but is rather organized in different zones; It can be reconfigured into a collection of smaller showrooms, an event space, a space for more intimate private meetings or larger public gatherings. Towards the city, hard and reflective aluminium surfaces are the dominant material. A softer character faces the garden square, where velvets in strong primary colors are used. We are interested in the contrast of the reflective metal against the saturated colors of the velvet and how the boundaries between these two materials begin to blur. In combination with the natural warmth of wood and the punctual solid stone supports we established a stage set to create diverse atmospheres that form an ideal backdrop for product presentations and various other activities.
Herzog & de Meuron, November 2022