Eni has inaugurated the exhibition “Un Nuovo Segno‘ (A New Signal) at Milan’s Triennale (open from 2 March to 1 April, admittance free) which presents the 10 finalist projects of the International Competition for the design concept for Eni’s new headquarters in San Donato Milanese, and which was won by the team led by Morphosis Architects.

On 13 March, Thom Mayne, recipient of the 2005 Pritzker Prize, founder of Morphosis Architects and head of the team that won the international competition, has been held a lectio magistralis in the Hall of Honour of the Milan Triennale.

The project

The idea of a new building at Metanopoli which would reflect a renewed attention to and total integration between the surrounding landscape, the architecture and urban fabric that would also adopt the most advanced developments in sustainability was drawn up in 2010. The Metanopoli area is one of the most significant examples in Italy of an organic design concept, so much so that the “new signal‘ was conceived in terms of a modern approach to landscape design. The metamorphic and fluid architectural style of Morphosis Architects has picked up on this idea, re-elaborating and adapting it to involve each single element in the definition of an authentic landscape architecture.

Eni is a company committed to growth based on a model of sustainable development that is reflected in the enhancement of people, contributing to the development and well-being of the communities in which it operates while respecting the environment, investing in innovation and engaging in continuous dialogue with its stakeholders.
Since its foundation Eni has always given a central importance to innovation and creativity. And it has done so by allocating resources and efforts towards a broad range of cultural initiatives and focusing its activities on development that is not only economic and industrial.
Eni has also been consistently focused on territorial issues and the relationship between people and places. The sector in which it operates means that it is in direct contact with the territory, its conformation, its resources and surroundings.
In this context, the presence of Eni at Metanopoli, in the municipality of San Donato Milanese, is a demonstration that its physical roots and symbolic scale provide a vital  signal of its engagement with the Milan area.

The exhibition

The design and layout of the Eni architecture exhibition "Un nuovo segno" (A New Signal) which presents the 10 design projects for Eni's new headquarters in San Donato Milanese is by Ronen Joseph.

The location selected for the exhibition is the Triennale in Milan. In particular, "il Cubo", a large 400m2 two-part space: a larger central space and a slightly lower colonnade. This configuration is used to determine the exhibition path which is divided into two parts: know and raw.

The Eni architecture exhibition "Un nuovo segno" (A New Signal) is divided into two parts: know and raw
The know section provides an overview of the historic background and urban context in which the new building will be constructed. San Donato has been a fertile area for a number of architectural developments since the 1950s, all of which have been inspired by Eni's vision and the company's habitual concern for its institutional and corporate space and respect for the surrounding area.
The raw section meanwhile is where all of the 10 design projects are on show, a representation of "pure" architecture, without didactic, cultural or contextual filters.
The projects are presented in such a way as to enable visitors to evaluate the work and creative efforts of each of the design teams at the same level.

The projects are consequently presented in a uniform manner with the models placed on white surfaces that make them appear to be floating on a halo of light.
Two tables for each project are fixed to the walls, the first and the last of the twelve submitted, in order to give a clearer idea of the underlying idea.
The exhibition of the projects with the models and table is integrated with a series of digital supports.
A slide-show, on large screens, offers a complete presentation of the designs, while two computers allow interested visitors to take a closer look at many of the technical and design aspects of the projects, as well as Eni's brief for the competition.
The new building will be constructed in San Donato and will provide "un nuovo segno" (a new signal) for Metanopoli and be measured against the existing buildings that characterise the area. It is from this dialogue that the graphic outline for the exhibition emerged, bringing together the landmarks of San Donato with a yellow line across the space.
During the exhibition, a lecture will be given on 13 March, by Thom Mayne, the founder of Morphosis Architects, and leader of the winning team.

The exhibition once again links Eni with the world of culture and the arts with the competition providing an opportunity to take a closer look at new trends in contemporary architecture.


Metanopoli was created in 1952 and its development to the present has been in 3 phases:

-      1952-1962 Metanopoli, the area designed by Mario Bacciocchi, was begun with the idea of creating a green, rational and new suburb of Milan. Conceived on the basis of cutting edge urban criteria, and according to the philosophy of the company village, at the same time it developed the idea of the home/hotel, for limited stays by staff, that was in harmony with the organisation of Eni, characterised by the dynamism of its founder, Enrico Mattei.

-      1962-1991 Starting with the new three-floor buildings by Bacigalupo and Ratti, and the so-called "pianone" (big plan) (1972), an extensive floor plan aimed at establishing the urban consistency of future building plans, up to the construction of the Terzo, Quarto and Quinto buildings, Metanopoli took greater and more vibrant shape, become an exemplary model of suburban development.


-      1991-2010 The project for the development of the San Francesco and Affari areas, designed by Kenzo Tange, marked a change form the precise and ordered development of the urban fabric to a unitary vision where the elements, while characterised by a strong formal autonomy, regulated and measured the urban landscape.


 The idea for a further development that would renew the focus on the complete integration of the landscape, the architecture and the urban territory was launched in 2010. The Metanopoli area is one of the most significant examples in Italy of an organic design concept, so much so that the "new signal" was conceived in terms of a modern approach to landscape design. The metamorphic and fluid architectural style of Morphosis Architects has picked up on this idea, re-elaborating and adapting it to involve each single element in the definition of an authentic landscape architecture. 

Green Line: Metanopoli is also a rare example of landscape design where architecture and nature compete as equals in the definition of the inhabited space: the green is designed and contextualised with the buildings, public and private land, the road system and services.  
The green is also urban decoration, along the main avenue, named after Alcide De Gasperi, alongside which are urban wooded areas or various shapes and density. Various arboreal forms are also integrated in the offices, for example on the 13th and 14th floors of the Primo Palazzo Uffici, the entire design philosophy of the Quinto Palazzo Uffici and the vegetation surrounding the sports complex in Via Caviaga. 


Architectural Line: Metanopoli is in a strategic position at the crossroads of the main access routes into Milan: the Autostrada del Sole; the Via Emilia; the railway station and the Metro.
Metanopoli developed along two main lines, the Via Emilia and the perpendicular Via De Gasperi. The intention of the architect Bacciocchi was that this typically Latin design would reflect the functionalism requested by Enrico Mattei for the Eni headquarters.

The Primo Palazzo Uffici, with its hexagonal form, and generally known as "il Castello di vetro" (the glass castle), was designed by Marcello Nizzoli and Gian Mario Oliveri in 1955. The Secondo Palazzo Uffici, built a few years later by Bacigalupo and Ratti, is characterised by a three-point star layout. These two buildings are the "shining towers" of 14 and 15 floors, with a steel structure covered in glass.

The Quinto Palazzo Uffici is in the form of an amphitheatre and is markedly influenced by and integrated with the green. Designed by Roberto Gabetti and Aimaro Isola it was completed in 1991.

The I, II and V buildings and the former Agip motel run along Via Emilia and form the ideal gateway to Milan from the south.

The area behind the buildings is given over to residential accommodation, with buildings in a range of forms and styles that respond primarily to the needs of families and are interspersed with extensive gardens, public woodland and apartment buildings that create a continuum with the natural surroundings.
The area also includes other features, such as the Santa Barbara church, designed by Bacciocchi, that dominates the only real piazza in Metanopoli next to Viale De Gasperi. Both inside and outside the church are works by Arnaldo and Giò Pomodoro, Cassinari and Cascella; continuing along Viale De Gasperi towards Bolgiano there are two other office buildings per, the III and IV completed in 1973 and 1984, the headquarters of companies in the Eni Group.
Another significant construction is the extensive sports complex in Via Caviaga that includes a football field with a stand, built in 1955 also by Bacciocchi. The indoor swimming pool was designed by Bacigalupo and Ratti, while the outdoor pool is the work of Zoppini and Mattioni.
A modern nursery and medical centre are the most recent constructions in the area.

Future Skyline: Eni's new headquarters was conceived bearing in mind the most up to date developments in energy efficiency and paying particular attention to liveability.  It is part of the pre-existing context and will harmoniously integrate two main scenarios: the public face, in a dialogue and exchange with the I, II and V office buildings and the area behind Via Emilia that looks over Piazza Santa Barbara.
The skyline will be changed by the building designed by the team led by Morphosis Architects, the particular profile of which will make it stand out. The dynamic forms will capture the attention of those landing at the Linate airport or arriving at Metanopoli on Viale De Gasperi coming from the direction of Via Emilia.

The result will be an architectural complex that will enhance the Milan area and become a new symbolic landmark for Eni.


The idea of building an organisational and administrative headquarters in the San Donato Milanese area was first mooted in 1952, at the very beginning of Eni's history. It was to have a vey specific function: to create a more ordered, rational and green suburb of Milan. The brand new complex was added to the urban fabric of San Donato an area that hitherto had not featured any industrial facilities at all. Strongly supported by Mattei, the Eni headquarters – soon to be called "Metanopoli" – rapidly became a focal point for excellence and innovation destined to get the great industry of northern Italy going again after years of depression. The urban project, designed by the architect Mario Bacciocchi, foresaw the positioning of the complex in a an area of movement strategically close to the main transport arteries of the period: close to Linate airport, next to the historic Via Emilia, which linked Milan to the cities of the centre and the south, and a stone's throw from the Autostrada del Sole.  In a very short time the area was transformed into an authentic "città del terziario" (service town) with a concentration of offices, laboratories, training facilities, and residential zones. The laboratories of Snam became a showpiece for scientific research in Italy where chemists, physicists, engineers and biologists, selected from among some of the youngest talents from the Italian universities, worked side by side, establishing an interdisciplinary method of research able to create a close connection between academic and professional training that was of fundamental importance for the creation of jobs in the country. Excellence was also the objective of the Scuola Superiore di Studi sugli Idrocarburi founded in San Donato in 1955 for the training of both Italian and foreign managers and executives, a cutting-edge business school, with some of the best teachers in the fields of economics, management and energy research.

In addition to the laboratories and the trainings school, an important feature of the complex was the external areas conceived as open public space for residents, guests and workers and the indoor spaces that included the residential areas, a sports centre, school, parish church and shopping centre. Far from the idea of the "factory town", for Mattei Metanopoli  was to represent an urban reality that was alive and vibrant, conceived according to the criteria of environmental sustainability and efficiency, modelled on the great industrial cities of the United States.
What still strikes the visitor to San Donato today is precisely the essential and precise geometry of the road system that integrates within the same area the areas destined for corporate use with the residential accommodation. The impression is exactly that of an integrated life, where there are no borders and public and private time is never in conflict. Indeed, it is possible to say that San Donato was conceived on the basis of a consistent vision of living and working, largely the result of the attention given by Mattei to the well-being of the company's employees, anticipating by fifty years the modern concept of "corporate welfare". And it was precisely on the values of consistency and integration that Mattei was to base many of his subsequent decisions: from the rescue of Pignone in Florence (the result of an unprecedented industrial reconversion), to investments in synthetic rubber and plastics to the creation of mixed companies to exploit the profits from the oil industry to the benefit of producer countries. In the logic of Eni's founder "everything depends upon" working in the interest of progress before profit.

The competition

The International Competition, announced in 2010, for the design concept for Eni's new headquarters in San Donato Milanese, was won by a team headed by Morphosis Architects, a US firm of architects of world renown founded in 1972 and with offices in Los Angeles and New York.

Over 50 international design groups participated in the competition from which 10 were selected to develop the design concept for the new headquarters. In December 2011 the jury completed its work and chose the project presented by the team comprising Morphosis Architects (the architectural project), Pasodoble (landscape architecture), Setec Batiment (plant design), Setec TPI (structural design) and Nemesi & Partners (partners in the architectural project).

The objective given was to provide a signal on the territory that reflected Eni's values and vision that was also in harmony with the existing area of Metanopoli and in line with the principles of economic, social and environmental sustainability, that are a continuation of the tradition established by Enrico Mattei.

The new Eni building will have a total floor space of 65,000 m2, 60,000 m2 of office space and 5,000 m2 dedicated to services, and will accommodate around 3,500 people. The building is scheduled to be completed in time for Expo 2015.

The area on which the building will be constructed is in the ex-industrial complex, the first Eni facility to be built in San Donato Milanese, situated between Viale De Gasperi to the northwest, Via Ravenna on the northeast, Via Correggio on the southeast and Via Vannucchi on the southwest.

In architectural terms, the winning project brings together three ideas:
the piazza, the symbolic and functional heart of the new headquarters and an indication of the centrality of people and the community;
democracy and integration in the shift from the overall architecture to the landscape architecture with the loss of self-referential towers and the creation of an essentially horizontal and democratic architecture;
research and innovation for a new sustainability through a metamorphic architecture, a fluid and dynamic continuum that symbolises the transformation of material into energy.

The winner

Morphosis Architects: Is at the head of a group of firms comprising Setec TPI (structural design), Setec Batiment (plant design), Pasodoble (landscape architecture) and Nemesi & Partners (partners in the architectural design).

The Morphosis design philosophy is based on an interest in producing work that has a meaning that can be comprehended by "absorbing" the culture for which it has been created. This is in contrast to the traditional idea of including external influences that are far from the particular context of the building to be developed.

Morphosis work is stratified. The design often includes many organisational systems from which a single expression is sought to contribute to the creation of a whole. To the eye, the work of the architect includes sculptural forms that appear very complex. But the necessary calculations have now become much easier thanks to the use of new computerised systems.

Thom Mayne, orn in Waterbury (Connecticut) on 19 January 1944, is an American architect. He studied at Harvard University and, in 1972, was one of the founders of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC). He teaches at SCI-ARC and the University of California and is the head of the architectural firm Morphosis, which is based in Santa Monica (California). In March 2005 he won the Pritzke Prize.

Prizes and awards:

  • Top Ten Green Project Award, American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment, 2007
  • Pritzker Prize, 2005
  • Chrysler Design Award of Excellence, 2001
  • Los Angeles Gold Medal, American Institute of Architecture, 2000
  • Alumni of the Year, University of Southern California, 1995
  • Brunner Prize or Award in Architecture, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1992
  • Member Elect, American Design Academy, 1992
  • Eliel Saarinen Chair, Yale School of Architecture, Yale University, 1991
  • Elliot Noyes Chair, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 1988
  • Rome Prize Fellowship, American Academy in Rome Italy, 1987

Major projects

  • San Francisco Federal Building, San Francisco, California, 2006
  • Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse, Eugene, Oregon, 2006
  • University of Cincinnati Student Recreation Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2006
  • Science Center School, Los Angeles, California, 2004
  • Caltrans District 7 Headquarters, Los Angeles, California, 2004
  • Hypo Alpe-Adria Center, Klagenfurt, Austria, 2002
  • University of Toronto Graduate House, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2000
  • Diamond Ranch High School, Pomona, California, 1999
  • Sun Tower, Seoul, Korea 1997
  • Blades Residence, Santa Barbara, California, 1995
  • Salick Healthcare Office Building, Los Angeles, CA, 1991
  • Crawford Residence, Montecito, CA, 1990
  • Cedar Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA, 1988
  • 6th Street Residence / Santa Monica, CA, 1988
  • Kate Mantilini / Beverly Hills, CA, 1986
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