Loud and Clear: Alcatel-Lucent Calls on DEGW Italia for Milan Campus
Telecommunications equipment giant Alcatel-Lucent has an illustrious corporate family tree. Its branches, some stretching back to the 19th century, have borne heavyweight fruit in the form of eight Nobel Prizes. The future also looks seriously intriguing. Recently acquired by Nokia, the company has unveiled a striking new office complex with interiors by DEGW Italia.
In the industrial heartland north of Milan, Alcatel-Lucent’s location is more specifically 12 miles from the city center, in Segro Energy Park in the town of Vimercate. The company had been there for 25 years, in fact, and was considering a move elsewhere when DEGW Italia director Alessandro Adamo got involved. In the old setup, he says, employees were “divided among nine buildings, old-fashioned and not-so-efficient facilities where direct interaction between people was difficult.”
A low-tech office with a communications problem. . .for a telecom company? Clearly, this could not continue. Once Alcatel-Lucent committed to staying at the park for another decade, in five ground-up buildings by Garretti Associati, DEGW Italia began designing a flexible, highly functional build-out that would completely change how 1,250 employees do their work everyday—whether at a desk or in a vast room. “There needed to be not only offices but also laboratories,” Adamo says. Plus, collaboration had to be fostered without sacrificing privacy.
The solution? Five buildings offering a total of 170,000 square feet of office space and 75,000 square feet of labs, all linked by a double-height connector defined by undulating walls of glass. “It’s deliberately fluid to provide a soft and welcoming introduction to the complex,” he says. And multifunctional, too, not just circulation space. Where the connector intersects with each building’s reception area, he created a series of lounges.
These lounges are furnished with clusters of eye-catching seating. Chairs, a jaunty update on wing-backs, and ottomans, in irregular shapes, are upholstered in bright colors. But the most outstanding feature is the lighting. Resembling upside-down volcanoes, enormous white forms descend from the ceiling to terminate with a circle of opaline stretched fabric backlit to change color continuously, varying the atmosphere on demand. “They emphasize the areas devoted to casual interaction,” he explains. “And their natural shape resonates with the surrounding landscape.” The natural world also makes an appearance in the form of the troughs of local river stones that hug one of the connector’s glass walls.
In one building, the river of stones flows toward the curved enclosure of the multi-media amphitheater. This small freestanding structure, among Adamo’s favorite features of the project, is clad on the outside in a plastic laminate that resembles wood. Inside, bleacher seating is jazzed up by cushions in royal purple and citrine green, Alcatel-Lucent’s signature colors. “The space looks simple,” he says. “But it incorporates acoustical solutions, air treatment, and so on, under the skin.”
Alcatel-Lucent’s palette brings unexpected flair to a very different environment. In the lab where wireless radio transmission is tested, purple-painted tubular steel supports cables. The action is illuminated by waterproof polycarbonate ceiling fixtures, 11 feet up.
Neutral colors and expanses of wood finishes, meanwhile, bring tranquillity to the office zone. Adamo inserted multiple break-out areas among the workstations. And the results of the meetings that occur there can be shown off in the auditorium, which is fronted by aluminum paneling punctuated by rows of glowing round cutouts—bringing energy to the prefunction area and setting the tone for the state-of-the-art audiovisual capabilities inside. Up to 150 people can be seated in various configurations, as determined by a mobile partition.
In Adamo’s view, all these functions are connected to today’s concept of work. “Offices should feature both single-use and mixed-use environments,” he says. “Alcatel-Lucent has a whole set of spaces that allow for serendipity.” That extends to the small cafés, offering chairs by Charles and Ray Eames, and to the much larger cafeteria, updated to manage mealtime traffic for nearly everyone at once. Increased human interaction, supported by technology—it’s the right call.
Eva Birch; Giuseppe Pepe; Roberto Cereda; Giorgia Acquati; Perla Perrotta; Andrea Sarati; Federica Quartieri; Roberto Manzoni; Gabriele Monaco; Antonio Cuccarese; Massimiliano Besana; Lorenzo Casanova: Degw Italia. Sts Engineering: Audiovisual Consultant. Bms: Structural Engineer. Ariatta Ingegneria Dei Sistemi: Mep. Teknopar; Underline: Woodwork. Isg Italia: General Contractor.