Olympic Village Design Narrative

Olympic Village Design Narrative

Architect
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Location
Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy | View Map
Project Year
2021
Category
Residential Landscape
© SOM | Pixelflakes

Olympic Village Design Narrative

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as Architects

The Porta Romana Olympic Village leverages a rare opportunity — the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics — to create a sustainable, intergenerational, and green community in the heart of Milan’s dynamic Porta Romana district. Designed, first and foremost, to become an integral part of Milan’s urban fabric, the village encompasses a set of public green spaces, the transformation of two historic structures, and six new residential buildings that will serve Olympic athletes in the short term, and subsequently transition into much-needed housing for students and families. Ultimately, the village will become a vibrant, self-sustaining neighborhood built around principles of social equity, environmental commitment, wellness, inclusivity, and resilience.

photo_credit © SOM
© SOM

Located on the site of a former rail yard, the Olympic Village takes architectural inspiration from the site’s industrial history, as well as the building typologies of Milan. The site plan adopts the rhythm of the surrounding streetscape, creating a porous urban block with a variety of new public pathways and connections to additional components of the Porta Romana Railway Area Master Plan. The preserved historic structures and ground floor of the residential buildings will house a variety of cultural and economic anchors that serve both residents and visitors, enhancing the tapestry of ground floor experiences that define the urban landscape of Milan.

photo_credit © SOM | Pixelflakes
© SOM | Pixelflakes

The new buildings combine the efficient, linear bar format typical of the neighborhood with striking, contemporary materials and communal terraces that serve as bridges between the buildings, to allow for a new form of social infrastructure and sustainability. Shaded by vertical plantings, these terraces will become signature gathering spaces and outdoor study rooms for students, lending the complex a sense of energy and life on every level. The terraces will help buffer the private residential units from the busy streets and public spaces at the edges of the site. Integration of greenery for the outdoor areas is key to the neighborhood’s climate resilience, as well as for the comfort, health and wellbeing of the occupants and visitors. Within this buffer zone there are greenhouse spaces that act as urban farms, enabling food production on site and nodding to the area’s agricultural history.

photo_credit © SOM
© SOM

At the base of the new buildings, flexible podiums accommodate programs that evolve with the usage of the village — just as historic palazzos throughout Italy have provided users with the flexibility to adapt to new uses over time. The porous ground floor with connected alleyways and urban pockets encourages exploration and experiences that create unexpected moments. During the Olympics, these spaces will house recreational and support areas for the athletes. After the games, they will transform into student amenities and public programs, curated as three ‘districts’ forming anchors at the corners of the site: The Scene for media and culture events; The Social where coworking and flexible social spaces will live; and Live Well for fitness and wellness.

photo_credit © SOM | Pixelflakes
© SOM | Pixelflakes

The historic structures, the Ex Squadra Rialzo Building and Basilico Building, are located adjacent to Via Giovanni Lorenzini on the southwestern corner of the site. Both buildings were built for industrial uses and similarly lend themselves to flexible, public programs. Together they form a gateway to the complex and establish the importance of the area’s history. The exterior envelope and roofs of both buildings will be fully restored, and their interior structures of masonry, wood, and iron will be exposed, illustrating the neighborhood’s transformation from industrial center to contemporary urban district. Dramatic yet respectful interventions within the buildings’ interiors, like new skylights, winter gardens, and art pieces, may also be undertaken.

photo_credit © SOM | Pixelflakes
© SOM | Pixelflakes

The entire Olympic Village is designed according to the principles of a smart and sustainable city, creating a complex that is at once connected and self-sufficient. The village’s mechanical systems will tie in to the precinct’s loops, yet passive cooling strategies, solar panels, and rooftop gardens —among other features — will ensure that the complex avoids energy waste and generates much of what it consumes on site. In addition, the new buildings maximize the use of sustainable materials, from the mass timber structure of the residential buildings to low-embodied carbon facade materials.

photo_credit © SOM | Pixelflakes
© SOM | Pixelflakes
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