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From Microsoft to Amazon, hi-tech and social networks giants find a home in Milan

by Giovanna Mancini

If the Porta Nuova-Garibaldi area in Milan, with its skyscrapers that have come to symbolize the city’s recent changes, is progressively growing into the financial and hi-tech district of the metropolis, the futuristic architecture designs of CityLife have attracted investments from the major insurance groups, with Allianz preparing to move 3,000 employees into the Isozaki Tower by year’s end, and Generali waiting for the completion of the Tower designed by Zaha Hadid to relocate another 3,000 employees, probably in 2018.

As yet unknown, on the other hand, is the identity of future occupants of the third tower, the one designed by Daniel Libeskind, whose construction work began at the end of 2016.

Vice versa, the Porta Nuova district has seen its ‘population’ settled for several years and the redevelopment project, launched over ten years ago with the new headquarters of Regione Lombardia, the Lombard regional administration, continues to expand towards the neighboring districts.

One of the first to relocate to the area, moving its offices into the eponymous Tower designed by César Pelli, was UniCredit, in 2012, followed by BNP Paribas which, that same year, relocated to Kohn Pedersen Fox’s Torre Diamante. In a few years, a third credit institution, UnipolSai, will relocate to the c. 100 meter tall “Vertical Nest” tower designed by Mario Cucinella, currently under construction.

The Hi-Tech Giants

The area’s redevelopment has attracted several big names in the IT sector, starting with Google Italy, which in 2014, set up its headquarters in the 5,000-square meter building (11 floors designed by William McDonough + Partners) rented out by Manfredi Catella’s Company in Via Confalonieri (close to the famous Vertical Forest). An even more impressive investment was made by Samsung: the Koreans bought an entire building (the “Diamantino”) to realize their “Samsung District”: the complex not only houses offices but a technological hub with an auditorium and showroom.

Microsoft Italy has proceeded along similar lines, with its recently inaugurated “Microsoft House” in Via Pasubio, within the impressive building designed by Swiss studio Herzog & De Meuron that – since December 2016 – also houses the headquarters of the Feltrinelli Foundation and its immense archives.

Microsoft has invested €10 million (and will invest as many per annum for the next three years) into the location, which is meant to be open to the city community and will be housing not only the Italian HQ but workshops, startups and spaces for conferences and events, thus completing the blueprint of a “hub of knowledge” that has been the entire project’s objective for the Feltrinelli Foundation.

Amazon Italy will be relocating its business offices in via Monte Grappa, in the former headquarters of Maire Tecnimont, which in turn moved to the Garibaldi Towers three years ago. The building – property of Antirion Sgr and originally designed by architects Claudio Longo and Giulio Ricci – is in the final stages of renovation by Gbpa Architects: ten floors above ground and five underground, for a total surface of 17,500 square meters that will initially house the current 400 corporate employees of Amazon Italy (now working out of the former Post Office building next to the Milano Centrale railroad station) but when fully operational, will be able to accommodate up to 1,100 workers.

Renovation in the historic city center

Two other e-commerce giants, Banzai and Alibaba, on the other hand, have recently opened their offices in the city center (respectively in Via San Marco and Corso Europa). The numero uno in social networks, Facebook, also picked the city center, inaugurating its Italian HQ in Piazza Missori, a short walk from Duomo, three years ago. Conversely, another social network corporation, LinkedIn Italy, set up offices in the Porta Nuova area two years ago, occupying all of the nineteenth floor of Tower B in the Garibaldi Complex, just above the Garibaldi train station.

Apple is also set to open soon in the city center, perhaps as early as the beginning of next year (negotiations are under way, though some disagreements with local retailers need to be resolved): the location is Piazzetta Liberty, overlooked by the cathedral’s iconic Madonnina, and it’s “only” a store, but a particularly significant one since it will be the first Apple Store in the Lombard capital and considering that the Cupertino giant has decided to invest time and resources in the project, entrusting its design to the Norman Foster architecture studio.