“The perception of the building, often seen as a whole despite its length, held together in a seamless shell reinforces the idea of it as a piece of product design on an urban scale.”
The Sheraton Hotel at the Milan Malpensa Airport in Spain, has a striking curved and segmented form wrapped in white fiberglass. This facade unifies the building as a whole, and may do just what the architect intended it to do- objectify the building. As Milan is a design capitol, there was a desire for this very prominent building to speak to this influence. The architects researched many options for the desired result before settling on FRP. This excerpt from King Roselli Architects explains:
We were looking for a seamless shell to fold around the functional volumes of the buildings. After researching and detailing a number of alternatives- titanium zinc sheeting, Corian and similar solid surfacing, sprayed polyurethane damp-proof membranes, and waterproof concrete-resin based finishes- we finally opted for pultruded fibreglass panels. Pultrusion is a manufacturing process combining extrusion and pulling fibreglass through a die that can provide panels up to 1400mm wide and almost infinite lengths- we needed lengths of up to 25 meters. Aside from the lengths of the panels, the material has a series of qualities highly suitable for building: it is light weight, elastic, very stable in extreme temperatures (-20°C to +50°C), fireproof and waterproof. Reduced costs and construction times coupled with the inherent qualities and finish of the material have proved to be decisive in achieving the desired result in this project. This material is more often used for industrial products and so an enormous experience of precision detailing to tight tolerances has been accumulated over the years which came in very useful in the detail design of the membrane.
The shell is curved around a subframe of pultruded structural profiles and steel arches, wrapping the entire length of each bay, or module of the hotel in a smooth, continuous skin. The length of the hotel comprises seven bays separated by courtyards, with the curved façades facing the airport, and the rooms looking out on the courtyards. The almost flat roof, is treated as a façade to be seen from the airport, with openings onto terraces, light-wells or interior courts. The plant extracts and ventilation “breath” through vents twisted out of the roof membrane.
All photos via King Roselli Architects.