Asti Architetti and Hines Italy breathe new life into the iconic TorreTirrena, designed by the Soncini brothers in Piazza Liberty in 1950s Milan.

Paolo Asti's "gentle" restyling of the historic Torre Tirrena, now called Liberty Tower, was completed at the end of December, contributing to the urban redefinition of Piazza Liberty, a stone's throw from the Milan Duomo, in line with the hypogeum project of the Apple flagship store by Foster + Partners.

Over the years, the activity of the Asti Architetti studio which was founded in 2004 by Paolo Asti – born into the profession as his father is one of the founding fathers of ADI – has specialised in the recovery of building heritage, focusing on giving new architectural dignity to existing buildings. That is why Paolo Asti likes to define his way of designing as ‘gentle architecture’:

Liberty Tower Milano Asti Architetti
“an architecture that is ‘gentle’ towards the client and the context, that never contrasts excessively, uses local materials, tries to reinterpret the compositional bases of the Italian façade, an architecture that is in some way personally related to me (I consider myself a gentle person in my approach) in the sense that I do not impose myself on those who will inhabit my spaces. In fact, we always propose interior layouts and materials that are never imposed by the architect’s ego: we do architecture for the general public, through extensive, low-key interventions, characterised by great attention to detail”.
Many prestigious buildings in the heart of Milan have already undergone restyling to meet the need for architectural renovation and functional adaptation while always respecting the building’s original character like the former Palazzo delle Poste in Piazza Cordusio, now home to Starbucks, the restoration of the former Banco di Roma in Piazza Edison, the redevelopment of the old 1930s building in Via Fabio Filzi 29, or the building at number 16 Foro Buonaparte.

The restoration of the Tirrena Tower carried out by the brothers Eugenio and Ermenegildo Soncini between 1955 and 1956 fits into this context: two forgotten protagonists of Milanese architecture who, between 1950 and 1955, together with Luigi Mattioni had already designed the Milan Skyscraper set on the corner lot between Via Vittor Pisani and Piazza della Repubblica.

In the 1950s, the Tirrena Tower – now called Liberty Tower – with its 11 floors, 46.5 metres high, was meant to create a backdrop for the new square planned in the town centre. It has a dynamic front, enlivened by reflections and protrusion from the pillars, that crosses the volume like tense ribs, reunited in the attic. The verticality of the structure, calculated by Cesare Fermi, is underlined by the chromatic contrasts of the finishes: the load-bearing elements are clad in blue-grey clinker, while the stringcourses are made of semi-gloss black anodized aluminium. The windows of the curtain are mounted on tilting fixtures in wood and aluminium. The square plan, with beveled corners, concentrates stairs and elevators on the back and adapts to the commercial spaces of the ground floor and the first floor, the offices from the second to the fourth floor and to the residential apartments that were located from the fifth floor to the attic.

Asti Architetti has curated the Torre Tirrena redevelopment project with mixed use (retail and office) based on a strategic vision of development led by Hines. The works have just been completed.

This intervention by Asti Architects completes and defines piazza Liberty in line with the hypogeum project of the Apple flagship store by Foster + Partners digging the square – emphasized by cascading fountains – with a stepped amphitheatre: “”the relationship with the square is quite evident”, Asti underlines, “the design of the façade of the tower, now enhanced in its vertical characteristics – finally returned to the city also as a night-time presence thanks to the LED strips which enhance the vertical structural elements – interacts with the glazed parallelepiped enclosing the fountain and with the square”.

On the outside of the Liberty Tower, the structural clarity of the “twin pillars” of the façade stands out and its inclined joint  mark the verticality of the tower, by defining the base and the top, and create a strong contrast of light and shadow: “in the redevelopment project  – Asti explains -I adopted an approach based on preserving and enhancing the basic features of the original design  made by the Soncini brothers: The Liberty Tower is unique in Milan for its ‘candy’ façade, which ‘curls up’ at its base ending at the top with a recess of its key elements of vertical development“.

On the other hand, the interiors have been completely renovated and re-functionalized in terms of energy and structural systems. (to date, LEED Gold Pre-certified has been obtained; Hines is world leader in environmental sustainability and energy efficiency issues in compliance with the highest international standards).

On the roof, previously used for technical rooms (now located in the basement), a new glazed volume has been created, set back from the line of the façade, with a huge terrace equipped with large planted tanks (five olive trees have been placed in continuity with the upward escape of the pillars of the main façade) overlooking the city and an open house of the offices housed in the building.

Torre Tirrena, now The Liberty Tower

  • Design: Eugenio Soncini, Ermenegildo Soncini
  • Structural designer: Cesare Fermi
  • 1955-1956
  • Restyling: Asti Architetti, December 2020
  • Piazza Liberty, 4
  • Height: 46.50 m
  • Floors above ground: 11 excluding ground floor
  • Developer Manager: Hines Italy
  • Fund Manager: Savills Investment Management SGR