Palazzo Lombardia: The Leading-Edge Winged Tower

The Milan skyline has changed significantly in recent years, if you consider that all five of the Lombard capital’s tallest skyscrapers were completed after 2010: the UniCredit Tower, Allianz Tower, Hadid Tower, Libeskind Tower and, of course, Palazzo Lombardia, the new headquarters of Lombard regional government in Milan. It is this, the last of these ambitious architectural complexes, that we are looking at now. As the citizens of Milan well know, the new Lombardy Region building is located in Piazza Città di Lombardia, adjacent to Via Melchiorre Gioia. The complex is home to the Regional Council, the regional president’s office, and every regional government department, providing office space to 3,000 employees who, until the building was built, went to work in different buildings across Milan.


Palazzo Lombardia: The Complex

Thirteen million kg of steel, 1.3 million kg of metalwork, 102,000 cubic metres of concrete, 32 elevators… the numbers are as awe-inspiring as the design is original. Built between 2007 and 2010, the new Lombardy Region government building was officially inaugurated on 27 March 2011. The symbolic installation of the Madonnina took place on 22 January 2010.

Built by Webuild, the complex was designed by a working group of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners of New York, in partnership with the Caputo Partnership and Sistema Duemila of Milan. The winning design won a 98-submission international competition called by the Lombardy Region. Over its long history, the winning New York-based firm has designed many prominent buildings, from the Grand Louvre in Paris to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Architect Henry N. Cobb, who played the biggest part in designing Palazzo Lombardia, sadly passed away in March 2020. In his words, the complex consists of “sinuous interweaving strands of linear office space, a combination of workstations within gently curving glass walls, highly versatile, perfectly adaptable to functional changes, able to react readily to the evolving organizational needs of regional administration.” Cobb and his colleagues set themselves the goal of “shaping a sequence of public streetscapes, open to all to enhance the city’s spatial fabric.”

The 33 thousand square metre complex is inspired by the harmonious ridges of Lombardy region mountains, a characteristic recalled explicitly in the flow of the four long curvilinear “lower structure” buildings. Between 7 and 8 floors high, these sinusoidal buildings house office space and space for culture, services and entertainment. The various Palazzo Lombardia buildings are arranged into a series of interconnected internal squares, offering an extensive pedestrianized area whose central hub is the large, covered piazza below the tower.

Construction of the entire complex cost about 400 million euros. By making this major investment, the regional government’s new headquarters brings together in one building complex – and in the nearby Pirelli skyscraper – all regional offices previously dotted around Milan. This has generated real operational savings. It is estimated that construction of Palazzo Lombardia will save the regional administration some 25 million euros per year on previous rental costs. On top of that, bringing all offices to the same place paves the way for logistical enhancements.


The New Lombardy Regional Government Skyscraper

Rising 161.3 metres above ground, as Milan’s fifth-tallest building, the complex’s 39-storey central skyscraper towers over the lower structures. Viewed from afar, people affectionately refer to Palazzo Lombardia as the “winged tower”. Together with the nearby (lower) Pirelli skyscraper, the tower offers space for a great many representative and office areas, a panoramic restaurant and a garden terrace.

Tatiana Milone was in charge of space planning, layout and interior design; Mio Dino furnished the many offices, which provide a total of 3200 workstations.


Leading-edge Innovation at Palazzo Lombardia

The Lombardy Regional Government Buildings have more going for them than mere height or sinuosity. Transparent edifices that trigger interesting light effects, they are filled with technological innovation and a great many energy-saving solutions: all of the thermal energy needed to heat the buildings is generated by groundwater heating heat pumps; the water is later channelled back into the Martesana canal.

Major portions of the two tower’s transversal facades and the central square roofing are covered in photovoltaic panels: 3,000 square metres of them cover a substantive portion of the complex’s electricity needs.

“Climatic wall” technology helps too: waste air is transferred into a cavity between the external and internal facades. This is then used in a variety of ways, depending on ambient temperature.


Palazzo Lombardia Piazza

Outdoor areas are a fundamental part of the Palazzo Lombardia complex: a 2,700-square-metre roof garden, 3,300 square metres of woodland, and a host of indoor squares. The openness of the design reaches its apogee with the spacious “Piazza Città di Lombardia”. Europe’s largest covered piazza, it is packed with restaurants, bars, a post office, a nursery school, and more. The 4,000 square metre ogival square is protected by a 32 metre-high modular structure.

In 2012, Palazzo Lombardia won the best European skyscraper of the year award from the prestigious Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat of Chicago. No other Italian building had previously won this major international accolade.