Text by Clay Risen
Italy may be home to some of the world’s most picturesque cities, but it’s not exactly known for its skyscrapers. So when Renzo Piano, Hon. FAIA, set out to design the high-rise headquarters in Turin of Italian megabank Intesa Sanpaolo, he had to respect the city’s history with a tower that was iconic but not haughty, that made a statement without making a declaration. The result is the 38-story, 545-foot-tall Intesa Sanpaolo tower, beside a public park at the edge of town.
Piano calls the tower a “bioclimatic” building, and as with many of his recent structures, he packed it full of eco-friendly features. The top floors are given over not to C-level suites but a triple-height greenhouse, with views over Turin and toward the snow-capped mountains that frame the city. Photovoltaic cells cover the tower’s southern façade, while the stairwell running up that side of the building doubles as a “vertical winter garden,” with hanging plants beside the steps.
The tower, which cost approximately $565 million and took more than seven years to build, also boasts a number of passive heating and cooling elements. During the summer, apertures in the exterior wall draw cool air into plenum cavities between the concrete-slab floors, which radiantly cool the offices during the day. The ceilings are a generous 10 feet 6 inches high, allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the building’s interior, while computer-controlled shades keep out the sun on the brightest days. These features, along with an energy-saving double-skin façade, LED lighting, and a geothermal heating and cooling system, helped the tower earn a LEED Platinum rating.
Intesa Sanpaolo likewise plays a valuable civic function. The penthouse-level garden, restaurant, and gallery are open to the public. The developers upgraded the next-door park, the Giardino Nicola Grosa; there is also a sunken garden on the building grounds that serves a company restaurant and daycare. Inside the tower, Piano included a 364-seat auditorium, which can be used for performances or lectures. The auditorium spans almost the entire width of the building with no internal columns, thanks to an innovative structural system anchored by six steel megacolumns at the building’s flanks, paired with a slip-formed concrete core. At the seventh floor, just above the auditorium, four-story-deep horizontal trusses transfer internal loads to the megacolumns, opening up the space below.