11 February 2021

Professor Dunnett on winning team for ambitious regeneration of iconic skyscraper in Milan

Professor Nigel Dunnett is on the winning competition team for the sustainably-focused regeneration of the Pirelli 39 site in Milan, it has been announced.

A visualisation of the winning design for Pirelli 39. Image © DS+R and Stephan Boero Architects

The project, which is based around the refurbishment of the iconic Pirellino building, will save 1958 tower from demolition and see the creation of a new timber high-rise, wrapped in 1700 square meters vegetation and capable of absorbing 14 tons of CO2.

Nigel said: "the competition entry aimed to extend the idea of the vertical forest to add greater ecological considerations: different plant mixes on different aspects, developing a relationship between the regional landscape and ecologies, with a sense of change from base to top." 

"We also explored the opportunities for a more naturalistic and ecological approach to landscape planting on the ground, and how this can be integrated within a garden and landscape tradition of formality," he added.

"Working on major international projects such as this is a great opportunity to apply all the ideas and research that we have been working on at Sheffield. Involvement in complex contemporary multi-disciplinary projects such as this is an important component in informing teaching practice.

Nigel was in the team headed jointly by Diller Scofidio + Renfro - the Architects of the New York High Line - and Stephan Boeri Architects, the Architects of the Bosco Verticale - or Vertical Forest - in Milan.

Nigel joins with Edinburgh-based landscape architecture practice Gross Max and Laura Gatti, a Milan-based arborist and landscape consultant, as the landscape specialists on the competition team.


Working on major international projects such as this is a great opportunity to apply all the ideas and research that we have been working on at Sheffield

Professor Nigel Dunnett


The team’s design triumphed over a shortlist of 70 entries, made up of 359 architectural, landscape/urban design and engineering firms from around the world.

Built in 1958 by Gio Ponti and Pier Luigi Nervi, the Pirellino building has lain abandoned since 2015, after it was declared unsuitable for use due to poor environmental performance.

As well as saving the tower - which was the model for the Pan Am building in New York - from demolition, the scheme aims to contribute to the revival and sustainable growth of the surrounding area.

The project focusses on the recovery of the existing building, the construction of the new timber tower, as well as the creation of a green bridge, housing a biodiverse greenhouse, connecting the two.

New residential tower | Botanica (110 m): 1,700 square meters of vegetation, distributed on the floors so that the flora and forna will change the colours of the building as the seasons change, will absorb 14 tons of CO2 and produce 9 tons of oxygen per year, like a 10 thousand square meters forest.

Recovery of the existing building | P39 (97 m): the building will be adapted to meet the current standards of office spaces in terms of innovation and sustainability in line with the Next Generation EU parameters.

Bridge building | Greenhouse (27 m): the project will redesign the separating ‘wall’ on Via Melchiorre Gioia by creating a new hub for events, shows and exhibitions. The biodiverse greenhouse will provide an immersive, educational, interactive and innovative experience among various plant species.

Nigel teaches on the undergraduate modules, Ecological Processes, Design and Managment; Materials of Landscape - Planting Design and Green Infrastructure and Ecological Master Planning, as well as the postgraduate module, Urban Ecological Design and Management.

Read more about the winning design