By Andrea Carloni e Carlotta Ferrati
Filippo Pagliani and Michele Rossi are the founders of Park Associates, an important Italian company based in Milan that has made the design of spaces in the tertiary sector its core business. The definition of the workplace requires a training that is capable not only of interpreting the needs of the client but at the same time of the large number of people who will have to work within the architecture. Among the many skills required to achieve these goals, one is certainly keeping a sharp eye on contemporary society. To do this, Park Associates has added Park Plus, which is its own research team and Park Hub, a place that in many ways tries to convey and assimilate the thinking of the youth.
Filippo Pagliani e Michele Rossi Photo:Paolo Zambaldi
Many of your projects concern buildings intended for working activities, where do you start from and how do you get a correct distribution of spaces?
As always, we start with listening and paying attention. The office buildings and headquarters that we have built in recent years are conceived in different areas. They can be the recovery of a historic or modern building in the city centre, a new construction in the suburbs, or vice versa. In all cases we start from the fabric of the existing building. A new working community that is going to settle in urban environments already lived-in, and with their own history, involves large and small changes: of viability, of services, of liveability and of course of sustainability.
Park Associati – Salewa HQ, Bolzano -2011, PH: Oskar Da Riz
The interiors and the distribution of the spaces depend a lot on the type of environment that is required: a Headquarters not only requires a careful analysis of the subdivisions in order to accommodate even a few thousand people, but requires the design of common spaces, company cafes, conference rooms , spaces for training, gyms for employees, kindergartens. Workplaces are increasingly tending to be hybrid spaces, which go well beyond the daily work at the desk. Spaces that are more able to create meeting opportunities and bring together different functions, are more able to reflect the needs of contemporary work. It was interesting for us to work for clients such as Salewa, Nestlé, Luxottica, Generali, in a period in which the office world has been changing so radically, becoming the field of new experiments and new ways of organising spaces.
Park Associati – Engie HQ, Milano – 2018, PH: Andrea Martiradonna
What is Park Plus?
Park Plus is a research team created in 2018, that became necessary in order to support operational teams in the design process. In the last two years the number of projects and competitions we have been working on has increased significantly, thus the need to maintain and possibly increase the compositional and technical quality of the proposals arose. For a studio like ours that deals with projects on a broad spectrum, from urban planning to interior design, there is also the desire to create a fertile environment for innovation and above all experimentation that has always been part of our method of work. The Park Plus team, coordinated by three of the studio’s architects and made up of three young collaborators, who alternate periodically, carries out theoretical and practical research work. It anticipates the flow of design by investigating certain issues and joins the project teams to propose alternative solutions as soon as an opportunity presents itself. On a practical level, Park Plus experiments with materials, new solutions for project presentations and models. In short, it represents a breath of fresh air for everyone and the effects are beginning to be seen in the studio’s work.
Park Associati – PH: Park Associati
What is Park Hub?
Park Hub is a container, both physical and ideal, in which we are interested in bringing together external ideas and solicitations that we feel are important to us and that we in turn want to share with the city. Milan is an urban laboratory, where new ways of living and co-living, thinking, working are being developed. New activities are conceived, new creativity, culture in general is being renewed. So, when a year and a half ago we expanded the premises on the first floor of the studio, taking up a large space on the ground floor, we also thought about dedicating a space to the presentation of exhibitions, books, conferences and much more.
Park Associati – Studio – PH: Park Associati
We also decided to establish an international call for designers under 30 and to dedicate this space to the winning project every year during the Salone del Mobile. The first edition was held last year, and the project presented, “Insecure” by Zan Kobal and Weixiao Shen, achieved a success that exceeded all our expectations. We have already launched the second edition, in which you can participate until December 20, all information can be found on the space dedicated to Park Hub on our website. 2020 will be a very busy year for Park Hub, we are preparing a series of initiatives for the 20 years of the studio.
Park Associati – Studio – PH: Park Associati
Park Associates takes part in many competitions, is there a type you prefer or consider more valid?
Public competitions in Italy are as always plagued by bureaucracy and delays, complicated procedures and little clarity. Add to this the fact that often winning a competition does not necessarily mean that an assignment will follow. This happens much less in private competitions. We try to participate in competitions where we feel we have something to say but we also want to open ourselves to areas that are not necessarily our core business. Competitions have always been an opportunity for us to grow in design because they are an opportunity for experimentation and comparison.
Park Associati – Catania Guarda il Mare – 2019
Can you describe briefly the main phases for which a new assignment becomes an executive project that instigates the opening of a construction site? I ask this question because I imagine that to manage some of your projects you need a lot of coordination skills.
In fact, the path of a project up to the executive decision can be long and tortuous and it is true that the organisation and coordination of the various parties involved is fundamental. It is not only about the design team within the studio, even if the growth in terms of the studio’s collaborators has also led to a change in the organisation and in the way in which the projects are followed in their various phases. We have very good collaborators and project leaders with solid experience in this regard, the work process within our company runs rather smoothly. However, a project is the result of collaboration with a series of consultants and suppliers who come into play in the various phases and with whom it is necessary to coordinate in the best way in order to respect the timeframes set by the customer. The choice of suppliers and their tender for the various functions and materials also presuppose timeframes that must not be too long. Often, however, the wait for obtaining a building permit can last for months and only after it has arrived can the project advance to stages that lead to the construction site. As we said, a long and winding road but always exciting.
Park Associati – Princeless, Palazzo Beltrami, Piazza della Scala, Milano – 2015 PH: Andrea Martiradonna
What are the new millennium companies asking of architecture?
Based on our experience, we can say that companies are much more careful now than previously to create workplaces in tune with the changes in the times and with work methods themselves. The architecture of the workplace must not only deal with standard environmental sustainability parameters that are now indispensable for any project, addressing the protocol of the LEED procedure. There are other parameters to be taken into consideration, which are precisely those of well-being within the workplace, to which productivity and ultimately the company’s development itself are linked. The WELL certification, which is now indispensable for workplace design, precisely measures sustainability towards the human component, that is, of those who will live in the spaces. The building not only has an iconic or symbolic value for the company, it must be a place where the people who frequent it feel comfortable. The new offices, the headquarters, are spaces in which the dynamics of a community are analysed during the design phase. Work time is changing, as are many other important factors in social organisation. The workplace of the future will look a bit more like a hybrid environment that takes some suggestions from domestic spaces and others from convivial and public places. Returning to the new needs, we now know that when we start a project for an office building, we must imagine it more and more multifunctional and welcoming.
Park Associati – Tenoha, Milano, 2018 PH: Andrea Martiradonna
Park Associates has also had the opportunity to think of masterplans, do you think there are common features that we could find in the cities of the future?
Urban expansion and transformation are changing entire territories. This is also happening in Europe, home of the historical evolution of cities. The intervention scales are different, depending on the development and evolution of the territories. In Milan as well as in London and Berlin or Moscow there is more and more work on the existing and on the built, but there is no shortage of projects for new urban developments based on the most innovative architectural, technological, social and economic concepts. We think that technology, more conservative than expansive designs and greater environmental awareness will lead to polycentric cities, connected and traversable thanks to newly conceived public transport. Historic cities are also changing, without losing their soul and taking advantage of innovative ideas that in all fields are trying to remedy the mistakes of the past. We saw it working on the project for the competition that recovers the Catania waterfront. A city that lives and depends on the sea, that built over time a series of barriers due to adverse traffic conditions and the construction of a railway along the coast that has created a rift between city life and the sea. Our aim precisely is to ensure that the city regains its space by the sea, freeing it from obsolete infrastructures, which can be deployed elsewhere, to create new places of aggregation, activity and culture. Not just through providing new spaces, therefore, but also enhancing the possibilities inherent in the social, cultural and historical fabric for thinking about the masterplans of the future.
Park Associati – Cava Ronchi, Milano, in corso
What is your relationship with Milan?
We were both born in Milan. We grew up and studied here. After living and working abroad, this is where we found ourselves starting the adventure of a new studio together in 2000. Milan has given us much professional satisfaction and for some years now it has managed to surprise us, to change and evolve as we would not have thought or hoped. Working and living in Milan does not mean being protected from all the problems present in the rest of the national territory when it comes to politics, perspectives, improvement of our life as citizens in general. Milan, however, is on the move, not only from an architectural point of view of. One has the impression that things are happening here and not only elsewhere as we have complained for years. Milan has always been a welcoming, open city, ready to face challenges. We would like all this to remain and evolve together with the city, and not to lose this distinctive Milanese character in the development process towards the future.