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Published by Sugar & Cream, Monday 13 May 2024

Images courtesy of Piuarch

Light, Transparent, and Perfectly Integrated

Great expectations for the inauguration on 2 May of Milan’s second UNIQLO store, located in Piazza Gae Aulenti in the Portanuova district, an increasingly central and strategic nexus of the urban fabric and one of the most interesting examples of the city’s urban regeneration.

The sales point, occupying the basement floor, will be accessed from the square through a glass Entrance Box whose design project has been entrusted to Piuarch. The Milanese architecture firm is by no means new to this area, having already signed the adjacent Porta Nuova Building, the only “low-rise” building of the piazza, which hosts apparel and accessory stores, showrooms, and coffee bars.

The 10×9 sq. m Entrance Box of the new UNIQLO store, with its curvy shape and gently rounded lines, is seamlessly integrated with its context, engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the surrounding buildings and spaces, without creating obstruction – but on the contrary, facilitating them in the piazza’s pedestrian flow. The door and store windows enable passers-by to see right through the building almost, without any disruption in their use of the square. Even the height – 4.5 sq m – has been specifically chosen for this purpose, positioned at the same level as the transverse axis of the nearby building’s shop façades, with which it entertains an intense dialogue.

Enclosing the store windows, lift, and elevators leading to the retail space, the Box has a ‘double skin’ facade which emphasizes the lightness of the structure and its open dialogue with the surrounding space, thanks to carefully studied transparent effects and well-calibrated solids and voids. The gap between the two facades, characterized by different depths, offers the eventual possibility to play, not only with transparency but also with the introduction of colour.

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The internal perimeter structure with its white matt walls is enclosed by a second facade in which the extra clear glass windows alternate with a translucent U-glass surface. These semi-transparent glass sheets characterized by a U-shaped section, whose use was formerly restricted to an industrial context owing to their capacity to filter the light and limit heat dispersion, now assume new forms of expression in urban architecture too. Piuarch has adopted the solution in this project for its capacity to confer lightness and elegance to the walls while recalling a concept of minimalism and simplicity typical of the UNIQLO brand. The door and window profiles are in white aluminium, an unmistakable reference to the neighbouring Porta Nuova Building.

Project sheet / UNIQLO ENTRANCE BOX Architectural project: Piuarch
Executive project: TECNE spa
Client: COIMA
Technical systems: Ariatta srl
Structural elements: MSC Associati
Building firm: Tecnomont Service srl
Cost management: J&A Consultants srl
Companies UGlass: Lamberts
Glass: AGC Glass Europe

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