Palazzo Lombardia in Milan, Italy. Courtesy FG+SG Fotografia de Arquitectura (left) and Simon Hsu Photography (right).
Thornton Tomasetti provided structural engineering services for the Lombardy Regional Government’s headquarters. The project includes five nine-story wave-like buildings totaling 98,000 square meters, including a 43-story tower and three parking and storage levels below grade. The civic complex also features rooftop gardens, open-air public plazas between the buildings, and a large piazza enclosed by an innovative roof structure. We performed structural design through design development before turning the project over to the local design-build contractor.
The curving shape of the low-rise buildings made coordination between form and function more complicated than in a structure with conventional geometry. Our engineers met early on with the architect to work out the column grids in a brainstorming session, where all the pieces came together in a “eureka” moment: the team found the solution that optimized structural efficiency and supported architectural priorities. The team’s willingness to openly share ideas resulted in a timely solution to a complex design challenge.
The piazza at the heart of the complex is topped by a curving diagrid of steel tubes supporting a transparent membrane of ETFE pillows. Because it connects to four separate buildings, each of which could move independently during a seismic event, the roof needed to be able to withstand simultaneous movement in different directions. We employed parametric modeling to identify the best balance between appearance and performance and developed a two-fold approach. Some portions of the roof rest on slide bearings while others are supported on posts hinged at top and bottom, allowing the boundary connections to move freely. We used innovative tools to apply simple techniques to a complex problem, creating a unique, project-specific solution.
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