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Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling "iceberg" in Milan

Italy Architecture News - Apr 04, 2022 - 15:12   996 views

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Italian architecture practice Mario Cucinella Architects has completed a hospital wrapped by ceramic louvres, resembling an "iceberg" due to its "cool appearance" in Milan, Italy

Named San Raffaele Hospital, the 40,000-square-metre hospital was completed within the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University's campus, a new 10-storey building is part of a medical complex located on the edge of Milan city-centre. 

The cool and semi-transparent building is marked by its ceramic louvres that vary in their depth and respond to the path of the sun. The hospital is described as "an inherently humane response to designing an energy-conscious hospital environment."

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

San Raffaele Hospital is an internationally celebrated model for bringing together scientific research, teaching, and clinical activities to create a highly specialised emergency room (ER) in Milan and a pioneering 284-bed inpatient care facility of national importance in Italy.  

Existing buildings date from the 1970s and 1980s and range greatly in their architecture. "There was thus a need to create a more coherent urban realm for this densely built-up site," said Mario Cucinella Architects.

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Known for its energy-efficient projects, Mario Cucinella Architects designed a building that introduces a sense of calm with its white curtain walled ethereal appearance.

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

The building plays with daylight and illuminates beautifully at night through its harmonious glazed elevations. Its glazed elevations are rhythmically punctuated with ceramic fins over 5 storeys. 

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

The base of San Raffaele Hospital is built with earthen coloured tiles to create a podium that grounds the levels towering above. This single storey base houses the ER (emergency room) – the largest in the country - as well as a surgical block with 20 operating theatres below ground level including two of the latest generation neurosurgery units. 

The building has a rectangular plan and the circulation routes that have been carefully thought out to minimise time required for accessing vital critical facilities. 

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Another important consideration has been the desire to maximise internal site lines so that members of staff can more easily monitor patients’ needs.  

Yet, the privacy of patients has also been carefully thought through, for example, with dedicated rooms for receiving visitors. These reunions take place within a less clinical, home-like spaces located within the wards which has the added benefit of enabling largely bed bound patients to vary their surroundings. 

These “visitor lounges” as well as the reception areas for visitors and outpatients are located on all levels and within the building’s corners, allowing for generous external vistas.

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Wherever practical, Mario Cucinella Architects have introduced daylight into the building. This is both for the benefit of patient care but also to boost the wellness of medical staff working long hours. 

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

This relationship with natural light and the outdoors has emphasised by the architects very much in response to the increased understanding of how draining both persisting and fixed artificial lighting conditions are for building occupants. 

Similarly, Mario Cucinella Architects have designed a roof garden as part of the project to create a connection to nature that again makes one feel part of changing conditions and thereby a sense of the passage of time that in and of itself is life-affirming.

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

From an efficiency point of view, the design team has selected hospital-grade materials for the interior that not only promote hygiene but are easy to clean thereby reducing resources required for maintenance. 

The materials are also selected for their sustainability credentials. Overall, operational systems in the building are all about reducing waste and bearing in mind that hospitals, in particular, consume exceptional amounts of energy due to their 24-hour workload.

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

The louvred façades of San Raffaele Hospital are a key consideration in reducing heat gains by diffusing the impact of direct sunlight. The architects used ceramic louvres varying in their depth responding to the path of the sun. The ceramic has also been specially conceived to disintegrate smog particles and preserve heat, cutting energy consumption by 60 per cent. 

And although not immediately apparent to the eye some 60 per cent of the elevations are, in fact, made up of opaque insulations panels that improve the energy performance of the building’s envelope.  

The opaque part is made of back-painted glass with an insulating back. The transparent parts have a screen print on top for privacy and shade. 

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

San Raffaele has been nicknamed "Iceberg" for its perhaps cool appearance within a challenging site that is visually restless and hectic by its very nature. 

The nickname or metaphor works well with the subtly organic shape of the new building. Its gently curved sail-like elevations compress and expand to express how it fits into its surrounding urban landscape.  

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

The welcoming and comfort of patients has been paramount in the way San Raffaele Hospital has been conceived as well as the efficiency and discreteness of its clinical operations. 

As Mario Cucinella said, "We worked with the clear intention of creating a well-designed building that would greatly improve comfort. A building that needed very little energy for heating, retaining heat, and generating little thermal gain required very little cooling." 

"San Raffaele’ s new Surgical and Emergency Department is certainly one of the projects that best illustrates the studio’s commitment to sustainability. Its iconic façade is a clear symbol of this," he added.

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects wraps hospital with ceramic louvres resembling

Mario Cucinella Architects previously completed a church in Mormanno Hill Town and completed an ultra-green office building in Ghana. In addition, the studio and WASP built "the world's first 3D printed house" made of local raw earth in Italy. 

Mario Cucinella Architects was founded by Mario Cucinella in 1992. The firm has offices in Bologna and Milan. Mario Cucinella adopts a philosophy of architectural design that combines environmental and energy efficiency strategies based on a comprehensive research.

Project facts

Project name: San Raffaele Hospital

Architects: Mario Cucinella Architects

Location: Milan, Italy

Client: IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele

Date: 2015 – 2021

Surface: 40,000 sqm

Team: Mario Cucinella, Marco Dell’Agli, Giulio Desiderio, Michele Olivieri; Emanuele Dionig, Martina Buccitti, Alberto Menozzi, Laura Mancini, Giuseppe Perrone, Matteo Donini, Lello Fulginiti, Daniele Basso. Bioclimatic design: Andrea Rossi. Modelli: Yuri Costantini, Ambra Cicognani, Andrea Genovesi. Concorso: Eurind Caka, Stefano Bastia.

Visual: Engram Studio, Paris Studio

Façades: Aza Aghito Zambonini Srl

Sanitary layout: InAr Ingegneria Architettura

Structural engineer: Ballardini Studio di Ingegnaria

Services engineer: Deerns Italia SpA

Fire engineers: Ranieri Studio Tecnico Associato

Contractor: Itinera

All images © Duccio Malagamba

All drawings © Mario Cucinella Architects 

> via Mario Cucinella Architects