Citylife is a redevelopment project in the heart of Milan where up until 2005 the City's Trade Fair operated. After having participated with the team headed by Gustafson Porter, and acclaimed winners in the 2010 international design competition for the site's 168,000 m2 urban park, One Works was later asked to design the Piazza Tre Torri and the adjacent lower level shopping area.
Part of the overall City Trade Fair Project, the plaza is located in the center of the three tertiary towers along the pedestrian pathway linking Largo Domodossola with the new city park. The double story plaza reveals itself at the two principle levels of the public domain, one being the towers' ground floor (+129) and the other in correspondence to the hypogea level (+122), acting as a junction between the park and the pedestrian axis Domodossola. Within the same design scope is the below ground parking (+117, +113) in addition to the basement levels of the Isozaki tower that connect the parking lots to the above commercial activity.
The revision of the plaza's layout stems from variations in its functional program, or rather of its spatial distribution, and the desire to create a single public place made up of two open spaces at different levels. Retail functions, strongly characterized in part by the fashion mall at the base of the Hadid tower, and the outdoor commercial activity distributed around the plaza and along the pathway towards Piazza VI Febbraio, permit the public square to open itself up to the city and the surrounding park. Hence, the project's strong urban character integrates well into the metropolitan area.
The public plaza’s configuration highlights three important aspects. Firstly, the plaza links the park's southern and northern parts, therefore between the present day Piazza Giulio Cesare and Via Domodossola. Secondly, it establishes an East-West relationship, which correlates Piazza VI Febbraio with the fashion mall and park to the west. Finally, the central Tre Torre Plaza is an urban fulcrum and integral part to the pathway system described. Moreover, this horizontal movement flow network superimposes a vertical system, which links all three towers at both their access levels, and the two public reference levels of the entire project, with the metro station.
The strong spatial articulation is resolved through large openings that overlook the hypogea plaza, freeing the view of the three towers from below and allowing for a direct integration with the same. The lower level, defined by the ceiling design that turns up into the large apertures and partly onto the blind facades between the windows, reinforces once again the continuity of place between diverse levels.
The plazas' overall size and structure along with the typology of the adjacent enclosed spaces determines the character given to specific parts of the open space system. In general, in this design phase, there has been a significant increase in green surfaced areas as a means to emphasize the spacial diversities. Large trees masses planted in the plaza’s north and south areas are in continuity with the park. The shrubbery and ornamental grasses, which ornate the flowerbeds in front of the towers help to confer a certain intimacy to the private outdoor areas. On the western side of the plaza, groups of trees with circular flowerbeds, inserted into the pavement motif, anticipate the future connection with this end of the park. Finally, shrubs and colorful flowered borders, some of which will variate with the change of seasons frame all openings.
The plaza’s extensive size necessitated a characterizing canopy element that could emphasize not only the central role bestowed on the public place but at the same time offer the main pedestrian routes protection from the natural elements. The canopies introduce the human scale; they address the needs of the pedestrian. Their horizontal lines read in contrast with the verticality of the towers, whose reference is to the metropolitan scale and to the area's trade fair origins. The plaza's illumination source, based on the City's traditional street lighting fixtures, hang from cables strung between facing buildings. In this specific case, the electrical cables use the canopy's structural supports as their starting point and run in an appropriate manner throughout the open space illuminating both levels at the same time.