It’s quite a story when a project is given a second chance to become a built work. Especially if the designer is one of the world’s greatest architects and the building reaches the respectable height of 207 metres (679ft).
Awaiting its inauguration in June 2015, Isozaki Tower – owned by German financial group Allianz – claims to be the tallest skyscraper in Italy with its 50 floors above ground overlooking Milan.
But it turns out that this iconic building is not solely the expression of innovation as many believe. It is also the output of a persistent will.
Surprisingly, it was first designed by Arata Isozaki in 1988, and therefore expected to become the tallest of Japan at that time. It should have been housed in Tokyo, as the most prominent building among JR Ueno Station Redevelopment.
Aside a couple of architecture lovers, whose comments posted on SkyscraperCity forum in 2011 sounded more or less like “in times of crisis even skyscrapers get recycled”, no one has spotted that Isozaki Tower for Milano CityLife impressively resembles that of Ueno Station.
For its architectural relevance Isozaki’s masterplan for Ueno Station (1988-1995) promptly got the attention of the media home and overseas. The Chicago Tribune Home Guide titled in 1989: Transformed Tokyo station to be city’s tallest building. Unfortunately, something didn’t work out.
In 1995 on the December issue of Japan Railway & Transport Review, architectural journalist David B. Stewart reported that Isozaki’s project was currently “held in abeyance”. The skyscraper (originally 67-floor), with slim profile and “supported in a dramatic and visible fashion by huge outside struts”, had been found unsuitable after wind-turbolence studies.
It is understood that the technological gap between Ueno Station skyscraper plan and the soon-to-be-called Allianz Tower has been filled within the last 20 years. Due to the work of architecture firm AMA, structural engineering Company Studio Iorio and general contractor Colombo Costruzioni, Isozaki’s tower has found his way to reach for the sky.
During developer CityLife press conference – held on October 29 on the 35th floor of the building – Isozaki not only has stressed the complexity of the process undergone for solving both structural and symbolic issues. He has also pointed out that the result of such work is his own tallest tower so far.
Given its vintage design, Allianz Tower will stand as the legacy of conceptual architecture to the city of Milan, which Isozaki visited for the first time in 1968 invited by Giancarlo De Carlo (1919-2005) to 14th Milan Design Triennial.
Speaking at the press conference about the “significant large scale” of Allianz Tower and of “the other features” of the area, Isozaki went back to those old days. “First time I came here there were just a few (tall buildings), of course Duomo the highest, Torre Velasca and Pirelli. A shift time of almost 40 years after, the competition for the redevelopment of the historic fairgrounds started…”
In regard to Expo Milano 2015, he added: “Expo will be next year, there are seven months left and I see the energy all Milano people are trying to complete. (Expo) It’s a kind of one-step in the 21st Century for Milano and it might continue further on, it’s not just the moment it arrives. The same happened in Barcellona, and that is what I watched in Tokyio”.
A few moments after his speech, during one-to-one interviews House Reporter editor has handed to the architect a monograph on his works. Isozaki reaction to what he was shown has been subtle. Well-disposed to explain to the journalist that Ueno Station project was in fact “a study”, while signing an autograph on the book, he confirmed “Yes”, it’s true that he has loved that project very much, for he has donated its original scale model to MoMa and finally he’s making it become real with CityLife.
Born in 1931, “one of the leading architects of his generation” in the words of Kenneth Frampton, Arata Isozaki was fated to be avant-garde architect, his full name meaning rocky bank associated with the urge to innovate, resetting after succeeding and aiming higher.
In recent days he happens to meet with Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) in terms of long-lasting careers and assertiveness. Though appealing to different generations and styles, both Isozaki and Wright have accomplished their first built skyscraper in their eighties. Moreover, also Wright’s Price Tower – completed in 1956 in Bartlesville, OK – had been conceived by himself 25 years earlier for New York St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers . Project that reamained stalled.