Park Associati was set up in 2000 by Filippo Pagliani and Michele Rossi in Milan, in a flat turned into architectural firm: a few drawing tables, a large room for building and showcasing models and a small, very lively kitchen. No cooker, just two microwave ovens and an electric risotto pan that nonetheless led to a collection of recipes to which everyone contributed. We printed it and gave it to clients and friends as a present and this kicked off the series of Park Christmas gifts that are now eagerly awaited each year.
In the flat that saw the very first incarnation of the practice, work was first and foremost sharing. In this microscopic version of a ‘piazza’, design, news, and private life were in the public domain.
In 2013, having finally run out of space for both people and objects, we moved to a former telephone factory, a 450-square-metre converted industrial space between the Polytechnic and Loreto. The beautiful courtyard where craftsmen used to work had been repurposed for the quaternary sector – publishing, design and architecture. The building also comprised a residential part.
First floor: a totally different life, lots of light, lots of space, a big kitchen, the bookshelf dividers, a new model room, the ‘tunnel of love’. All spaces, offices included, were open, transparent. Ideas for a new project do not necessarily come into existence under the light of a computer screen, they rarely originate from just one person. Rather, they are discussed outside on the balcony, while smoking a cigarette, in front of the coffee machine and, of course, in the kitchen, that also hosts a collection of the gastronomic souvenirs brought back by those returning to Milan after a holiday or a weekend away.
We seemed to have plenty of space, but, at the same time, we kept on growing. Last year, as fate would have it, the printing house on the courtyard’s ground floor moved out.
We decided to add a floor, to expand downwards and finally have a place where we could make things ‘happen’. From holding informal meetings, to welcoming entire student classes and organising events – exhibitions, book presentations, discussions.
Today there are 45 of us. We dine at large tables bathed in the light streaming in through the skylights. We have small but vibrant green spaces, both inside and outside: banana trees and vine shoots, aromatic herbs, ficus, small palm trees in front of the entrance. There is no pergola yet, but the ‘vitis’ is growing and in the summer the small courtyard at the back is the perfect place to celebrate successful competitions, new commissions, but also birthdays, state examinations passed, Park football team’s victories, engagements and weddings. Whereas in the winter it all happens in our multipurpose room, where tables can appear and disappear depending on need.
At long last we have managed to provide a display place worthy of our models, the materials that inspired us, and the photographs of building sites and projects. And what about the kitchen? It has almost become a professional kitchen, hosting spontaneous cooking lessons.
The ‘piazza’ has become quite crowded and, since its foundation, the office has grown a lot in terms of capacity, structure and skills, even though we still see ourselves as an ‘architecture atelier’, a place of exchange. The objects that breathe life into the office do not necessarily and only speak of its founders but are the marks left by all our co-workers, they speak of the ideas that lasted an hour or those that have turned into a building; nothing is left behind.