Two stars in architectural history are the inspiration behind the rebirth of the Meliá Milano, the top-end hotel in Via Masaccio; two names embody the soul of this restyling by Alvaro Sans in conjunction with Vittorio Grassi Architects ‒ Le Corbusier and Gio Ponti. A key figure in modernist essentialism, the first of the two presented his revolutionary approach at the Paris International Exhibition in 1925. His idea was based on removing bulky walls in favour of broad open spaces ‒ the same as those redesigned for a modern tourist destination such as the Meliá and adapted to the mood of a 21st century city. The same is true of the references to Gio Ponti’s interiors, to the point of prompting Alvaro Sans to speak of a timeless hotel. Long-sighted visions that still today are showing their modernity, in the renovated entrance hall, restaurant and conference rooms.
The modernist core of the new approach to spaces has led to a shake-up in how the interiors have been divided up, to the extent of almost entirely abolishing single-use spaces: taking their place are meeting rooms, auditoriums and open areas to welcome in nature.
“We have updated the concept to the present day in a design that emphasises the unusualness of this gem in the city of Milan - the architect Vittorio Grassi explained -. Working in unison with Alvaro Sans, materials of natural origin and capable of fully conveying their own essence have become the stars of the interiors. Some such examples are the Spanish Macael marble used for the floors, or its accompanying elegant walnut wood in a natural finish. These are found alongside large mirrored surfaces. Thus the spaces are endowed with a stylish and welcoming identity.”
The contribution by Vittorio Grassi Architects helped translate the idea by the architect Alvaro Sans into an international project that is fully emblematic of the Milanese context, starting out from an eco-sustainable and green approach ‒ this also being the colour symbolising Milan.
“Over 20 years have gone by since the hotel was designed - Mr Sans pointed out -. It started life as an industrial building, with large spaces, which we tried to reshape. Making them properly functional without stripping them of their original connotations was definitely a challenge.”
The same approach was adopted by Vittorio Grassi’s studio for another restoration and renovation in the heart of Milan, for the interiors and exterior to the historic American consulate at no. 5 Via Principe Amedeo.
“Green is the colour of Milan and has always been part of its architecture, both inside and out - Alvaro Sans highlighted-. Courtyards have been converted into gardens, roofs into oases, and walls now feature cascades of plants. There is strong conviction that green, in its many forms, brings people a better quality of life. And this is why it will also influence future developments in architecture.”
Green is therefore a starring colour at the Meliá, starting off from the large ficus tree in the central courtyard, which creates a contrasting effect with the neutral minimalist style of the pale furnishings or wood and gold colours. Indoor oases and gardens are also pivotal in various spaces where light is also a leading presence: the entrance hall and public spaces enjoy natural daylight thanks to the broad skylights and window expanses. Nonetheless, the original crystal ceiling lights such as those in the restaurant also play a vital role.
Upon entering the hotel, the sensation is of spaciousness and airiness, as well as closeness to nature in the various spaces. In fact, the lobby gives direct access to the versatile restaurant, which offers traditional Italian cuisine and features soft lighting and custom-made furnishings echoing the Milanese design tradition in soft shapes.
“Now everything is closer together and more functional, contained in a large open hall offering a global experience,” rounded off Alvaro Sans and Vittorio Grassi.
Architects: Alvaro Sans e Vittorio Grassi Architects
Client: Sol Melià Italia Srl
Area: 4.300 m2
Bathroom Fittings: Duravit
Cladding: Alpi, Silestone Cosentino
Photography by Lorenzo Carone, courtesy of Melià Hotels International