words Beatrice Galilee
Last week the winner of the World Architecture Festival was announced in the belly of the Barcelona Forum, possibly Herzog & de Meuron's worst building.
The Bocconi Institute in Milan by Dublin-based Grafton Architects won the sought-after plastic “W” after an X-Factor-style series of crits and presentations by 220 architects from all over the world. Grafton’s monolith in the south of the city is far from the Prada stores and Armani boutiques Milan is famous for, and is clad entirely in luminous local ceppo stone. Local means local – the university bought an entire quarry just an hour away from the campus.
An invited competition saw Grafton beat the likes of Diener & Diener and other minimalist Swiss masters. The project is regarded as a significant step for Irish architecture. “It’s important because Irish architects rarely get invited to these competitions or put on these lists,” says McNamara, speaking before the result.
The new building houses seven departments and 24 research centres for 1000 teaching staff. It also has conference rooms, underground parking and an auditorium with a foyer and exhibition area. Instead of sinking the auditorium below ground, the architects have lifted it so the raked seating creates an opening, “like a mouth”, to the street.
Although primarily for the university’s science students, the auditorium will be open for public lectures, and eventually plays and concerts. The architects used courtyards and gardens to create natural light below ground. “It’s like we have created two worlds,” says McNamara. “It’s about natural light but there is continuity between university and the public.”
images Federico Brunetti
top image The raked seating of the auditorium creates a wedge-shaped entrance
The main underground foyer to the auditorium
The street-level foyer is described as a window to Milan