Workspaces with no hierarchies in harmony with the architecture’s transparency A unique workplace, a vast extroverted space, whose architectural features open up to the outside through transparency and luminosity. A project that respects the complex’s industrial past while focusing on contemporary design through the concepts of sustainability and smart working. The project is designed by the Maurizio Varratta Architetto firm and DEGW, a brand of belonging to the Lombardini22 Group.
The new headquarters A sustainable and ambitious conversion This huge structure consists of four main buildings separated by two bioclimatic glasshouses: triple-height glazed spaces featuring plenty of landscaped areas, interaction places and horizontal/vertical linking systems connecting the various buildings serving as offices.
The building’s original design dates back to 2001 and was aimed at holding onto its industrial past by maintaining and modernising the building shell, using the same building technology to recreate some new parts that were lacking and renovating the old structures by giving them a brand-new skin.
In 2001, the Prysmian Group, one of the world’s leading companies in the manufacture of cables for the energy, telecommunications and optic fibres industries, decided to present an extremely ambitious conversion project for the area, which involved reusing and renovating it to accommodate offices and laboratories. This meant the building complex would hold onto its manufacturing vocation, but it would inevitably have to be altered to adapt to new needs in terms of energy and environmental requirements. The entire complex’s image, main structures and initial layout were to be maintained while adapting them to changing practical needs and new environmental sustainability requirements, now of such fundamental importance. Maurizio Varratta’s project involved dividing up the surface to be built on in a different way, freeing and hollowing out the building’s bays: this cleaning-up process and the incorporating of glass roofs allowed more effective use of sunlight. The new building does not take up any extra ground, conforms to the principles of “building on buildings”, uses part of the old foundations, and has no underground sections, so no new excavation work needed to be carried out. The materials it was built out of are partly recycled and all recyclable.
The glasshouses Space helps raise work standards The most distinctive feature of the Prysmian Group’s headquarters in Milan are the triple-height glasshouses connecting together the office blocks. These fully-functional green ‘havens’ offer notable advantages in terms of natural lighting, controlling the microclimate, and overall energy efficiency. The glasshouses really help raise the standard of teamwork, introducing flexible and informal work dynamics that improve business relations through dialogue, cooperation and environmental well-being. The roof over the glasshouses is made of a sloping pitched structure, complete with aluminium fixtures holding wide glass windows; the roof pitches facing north allow natural light to flow into the office blocks facing onto them without bringing in any extra heat and are fitted with shutters (that open and close), so that the offices can be cooled naturally in summer. The roof pitches facing south have adjustable mechanically-controlled shutters to provide natural lighting and, at the same time, keep out some of the direct sunlight and any extra inflow of heat. On the intrados, the glazed surfaces of both pitches are fitted with mechanically-controlled roller blinds designed to shield against and control bright light and dazzling/glinting.
View across the complex An efficient layout projected into the future and looking back into the past The three buildings connected by the glasshouses are constructed over three levels. They contain open-space offices, meeting rooms, relaxation areas and archives located in the under-roof sections; the third block, where there is also a partially raised level, holds the executive management offices. The fourth block, smaller than the others, set over on the north-east side and separated from the main complex by a glass link that also extends up the first three levels of the old abandoned spinning tower, accommodates activities connected with conferences, communication and training and is furnished with meeting rooms and ancillary spaces. The old spinning tower, where optic fibres used to be designed and tested, is the most distinctive trait of the area’s industrial past, a landmark that now symbolises Prysmian’s new headquarters and proudly displays the company’s graphic logo.
Work spaces A revolution under way DEGW’s consultancy on interior design, space planning and choice of furniture interacts smoothly with the simple, minimal high-tech architecture designed by the Varratta firm, starting with the choice of materials: glass, anodised aluminium, stainless steel and methacrylate. The deliberately austere style of furniture is injected with plenty of colour in the informal areas and glasshouses, where natural light really brings out the colour schemes.
The building provided the chance to innovate the basic work procedures. The vast space – 12,000 m² of offices and 1,200 m² of glasshouses (complete with ancillary areas) – were designed along the lines of smart working for the approximately 600 staff. Most of the surface area is open space (69%), even for executive management. The rest of the space is used for ancillary purposes: meeting rooms (12%) and hubs (19%) or, in other words, the full-height glasshouses linking together the three blocks and providing winter gardens for hosting informal meetings.
Prysmian’s work procedures have truly been revolutionised: previously only 6% of the corporate headquarters were designed as open spaces; most of the company’s operations were carried out in enclosed settings. Before carrying out the space planning and interior design project, DEGW implemented workplace change management procedures in partnership with Methodos. Every change is a process based around interaction that actively involves the people who will live in the new spaces. DEGW gets people involved in the changes and guides them around their new work environment, providing guidelines for optimum use of the new spaces. DEGW considers workplace change management to be a vital process in helping people deal with change. It provides the means of developing a project based around people’s real needs that affects every level of the company and of managing the impact of change on people. The new combination of shared and individual workspaces at the Prysmian Group headquarters is a perfectly calibrated mix of targets and results, activities and requirements - most notably, interaction and concentration – aimed at raising work standards.
DEGW is continuing its business partnership with Prysmian. Now that work has been completed on the Milan headquarters, the company has commissioned DEGW to develop guidelines for interior design and space planning for its headquarters in China, Mexico, Romania, Brazil and Slovakia.
Physical branding Focus on functions, people and business FUD Brand Making Factory, a branch of the Lombardini22 Group focusing on Physical Branding and Communication Design, worked with Interbrand on developing an integrated communications system for the interiors.
FUD has brought the Interbrand concept in line with both Maurizio Varratta’s architectural design and DEGW’s interior design through carefully gauged and clear physical branding and wayfinding that respects the architecture and complies with the company’s everyday needs.
The branding of the spaces is clearly visible starting from the reception, where a sign showing the Prysmian logo has been placed on the main desk. The sign is made of brushed aluminium with different textures and is set at an angle of 45°. The space and company tell us their story through tag-lines and eye-catching phrases placed in strategic positions, as well as striking informational graphics and even showcases - holding company products - designed by FUD. Corporate values – most notably ‘linking the future’ – are physically embodied in glass film showing infographics (about the company’s worldwide operations) in the form of words written in thick white plexiglass. Interbrand has created an alphanumerical code and system of pictograms that identify the spaces, cleverly turning architectural constraints into opportunities.
What the architects have to say Alessandro Adamo The main challenge facing DEGW was to work on a process that was already underway, offering new and innovative means of setting out the workspaces horizontally, without hierarchies, in harmony with the transparency characterising the entire project. The excellent results in organising work and making use of the spaces were achieved through positive relations between all the people involved and an excellent business partnership with the client, giving concrete shape to the project’s key words: simplicity, functionality, cleanliness, cooperation.
Maurizio Varratta The Prysmian HQ in Milan is a building complex with an apparently simple but technologically cutting-edge architectural form, which follows the very latest principles of energy sustainability, environmental quality, and respect for the environment. The old building was completely knocked down and all its constituent materials were recycled. It guarantees its occupants enjoy a good quality of life in accordance with the highest international standards.