The Torre Arcobaleno was originally only an old grey concrete water tower that was erected in 1964 within the railway station grounds of Porta Garibaldi. In 1990, the authorities of Milan, Italy, decided to save the artefact from degradation, with the aim of promoting a new attitude of care and pride in favour of its urban heritage.
The urban renewal project
The urban renewal for the Soccer World Cup in Italy in 1990, which also included the recovery of an old railway bridge located between Viale Corsica and Viale Forlanini (later named Passage to the Northeast), was sponsored and promoted by the Sports and Recreation Department of the Milan City Council and by the State Railways.
The project received ceramic material and specialist consultancy by Marazzi Ceramiche, to address technical problems. Mapei supplied installation materials and Tempini assisted in floor and wall covering.
Bazea and Fila Solutions: The tower and the urban context
Today, the Torre Arcobaleno continues to stand out in terms of its bright polychrome ceramic covering – a major distinguishing feature of this important office building in the Porta Garibaldi district – and represents a colourful tribute to Milan’s design creativity.
Similarly, the restructuring of the railway bridge saw a rigid and cold structure turn into a colourful and welcoming entrance to the city for the visitor arriving from Linate Airport in the east.
The idea behind the project
Before being renovated, the old tower, standing 35m high and with more than 1 000m2 of surface area, appeared like a grey concrete giant with missing pieces on the outside. Over many years the limestone had formed a deposit, causing the oxidation of the iron reinforcements and the concrete to crumble.
The tower walls and ribs were carefully restored with the strengthening and waterproofing of surfaces. The reconstruction of the detached parts and the painting of the connecting parts was done using Mapei products.
The coloured ceramic covering was achieved using 10x10cm Marazzi tiles, which proved perfect for easily following the circular surfaces with tight radii and especially for highlighting the concave shape of the tower.
The 22 faces, covered with single-fired tiles for outdoor use in 14 different colours, formed 22 wedges designed to enhance the original structure.
The ceramic material was particularly suitable for the purpose, both due to its natural characteristics and its resistance to atmospheric agents and pollutants, and to the visual impact of its infinite chromatic variations. Finally, the alternation of shiny external ceramic surfaces and those made up of rough “cotto” provided tactile sensations of great appeal.
After the phases of restoration and coating, the job ended with the construction of the outdoor lighting system and the recovery of the entrance space.
A “14-colour symbol”
At Expo 2015, architects and designers were back in action, restoring the mosaic-covered tower to create a spectacular visual impact: a 14-colour symbol of the desire to restore and colour parts of the city.
Part of the Wonderline project
The Torre Arcobaleno forms part of the Wonderline project by Original Designers 6R5 Network, which has been running for several years, linking initiatives in the world of art and architecture with the theme of colour.
The colours of the Torre Arcobaleno express the desire to inhabit our planet intelligently, creating a harmony between technology, nature, innovation and tradition. The Garibaldi zone of the nearby Piazza Gae Aulenti is the acknowledged nerve centre of the city’s business, fashion and modern architecture scenes.
The zone, now restyled by futuristic skyscrapers, has adopted the Torre Arcobaleno as its “Colourful Ceramic Totem”, there to remind people of Italy’s master potters and the craft origins of an industry famous all over the world for its Italian excellence.