This landmark new square at the heart of the Porta Nuova Garibaldi development provided an incredible opportunity to create a new urban quarter, creating a space that would showcase the vision for Milan as an innovative, sustainable and people-oriented place. Sustainability was integrated into the heart of the design, ensuring longevity by enabling the piazza to be used for temporary art and cultural installations. The centre of the piazza is flooded, creating a dramatic 60m reflective water skin that becomes highly textured to increase the water’s vigour before it cascades down two floors, where not only does the sound mitigate noise pollution of surrounding roads, but also helps to integrate light and ventilation requirements.
The piazza’s sculptural seating showcases the potential for digital fabrication in the public realm. Light wells connect the square with the retail floor and car parking below, whilst also allowing light and air to penetrate the surrounding towers’ deep footprints.
Approximate Map Location
|Type of scheme|
New urban square
Winner Landscape Institute Awards 2016
Euro 3.2 million
In a bold move, the Porta Nuova or ‘New Gate’ development aimed to bridge across rail lines and main roads adjacent to the city’s primary train station. Pivotal to the development is the striking Piazza Gae Aulenti that lies at the centre of it, creating a vibrant destination for new and old communities to meet.
AECOM was asked to create a design that embodied flexibility, sustainability and people-oriented design. As Milan is a fashion capital, the design needed to be adventurous and contemporary in style. This was further highlighted by being named in commemoration of one of Italy’s renowned architects, Gae Aulenti.
One of the key challenges the piazza answers is creating a welcoming human scale within a large space surrounded by high-rise towers while simultaneously being founded on the Italian tradition for open piazzas with few vertical elements, to form an authentic public space in the best tradition of Milanese culture. AECOM was asked to respond to a very ambitious brief where smart solutions such as integrated car park ventilation, solar powered light features and interactive water features had to be married with a vibrant, flexible and beautiful public space. AECOM landscape architects rose to the challenge and crafted a sculpted space that is efficient and inspired by the city, its culture, and people.
Landscape practice: AECOM; client: COIMA SGR; design architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli; lighting design: Castiglioni; waste management: Montana; executive architect: Adamson Associates; local architect: Tekne; quantity surveyor: J&A; water feature: Wed Fontane; local landscape architect: Land; MEP engineering: Ariatta/Buro Happold; facade consultant: Studio ingegneria Rigone; urban quality: Gehl Architects; structural engineering: MSC; fire protection: GTP; traffic consultant: ATM
The piazza is an incredibly popular destination; its use maximised throughout the year by its ability to adapt to events, whether it’s sitting peacefully drinking coffee whilst working on your laptop, eating and shopping during markets or enjoying a major venue, such as a concert or outdoor theatre. Its presence has also brought previously separated communities together, a place to meet and be seen.
Sustainability was integrated into the heart of the design, ensuring longevity by enabling the piazza to be used for temporary art and cultural installations. The water features can be drained to maximise the use of the space to host great events that draw people together and makes life long memories. Three beautiful oval cascades and light wells bring daylight and natural ventilation to spaces below. The light wells connect the square with the retail floor and car parking below, whilst also allowing light and air to penetrate the surrounding towers’ deep footprints.
The piazza’s sculptural seating - which gives an informal feel to the square - showcases the potential for digital fabrication in the public realm, proving the positives of the technology and advantages over traditional approaches. During the design process, 3D models were used to make physical CNC models at 1:20-m scale out of high-density foam, enabling the client to examine and assess the design; later models were optimised for construction. This process was a true testament of technology at the service of the landscape architect craft.