“We created a language that could perfectly adapt to Axpo.” And so begins a story that sees Emanuele Corte, partner at architecture studio Vemworks, working together with Simone Demarchi, CEO of Axpo. Together, the two represent an exciting collaboration for the creation of Axpo’s new offices in Italy — a milestone with which the company celebrates its first 20 years in Italy.
On one end we have Axpo, a leader in the energy sector here in Italy, and on the other, Vemworks, an architecture studio founded in 2003 by Emanuele Corte, Vittoria Fiorito and Marco Dellatorre, who tapped into their international insight on architecture and interior design with studios in Turin, Milan, and New York. The fruit of their collaboration can be seen in the Axpo offices of Genoa and Milan, cities where the company has decided to touch down in the historic center, establishing a unified creative language with a clear New York inspiration. In the Ligurian capital, after moving headquarters to the periphery, the company returned to the city center in the former spaces of La Rinascente, an important building from the ‘60s designed by Marco Lavarello and Aldo Molteni. It’s a symbolic choice with which the company manifests “the desire to relaunch a wounded institution that needs to return to life,” claims Demarchi.
For Milan, the selection fell to The Angle, an art nouveau building in Corso Italia, whose angular form recalls the iconic Flatiron Building of New York. While the style and language are meticulously tailored to the design at hand, the concept looks to the co-working spaces of New York for inspiration — a shared experience for both the designers and CEO.
Here then, design focuses on the interaction between people, with the conception of a workplace no longer linked to the now anachronistic styles of an office composed with simple desks. Instead, organic, versatile, multifunctional spaces on a human scale allow all the employees plenty of space in which to move. Representative spaces are altered with operative ones, to which a kitchenette was added along with a relaxation area and isolated box to work in complete privacy. Everything is united by a recurring motif that recalls the essence of Axpo: the walls in a gray tone showcase the reproduction of a Nikola Tesla patent — an accumulator of energy that becomes the dominating decoration in both offices. What's more, among the systems left exposed, the fire duct was colored red, becoming the fil rouge that unites atmospheres and recalls the company’s logo. Furnishings, meanwhile, were custom-designed by Vemworks and articulate the theme of energy, like the tables in meeting rooms realized in metal — a conductive material par excellence — with a graphic mark incorporating the Axpo logo.
In both cities, energetic efficiency represents an important issue, which of course was taken into account during the design of spaces, leading to environments and systems producing more thermal and cooling energy than that consumed. This is also added to an automatic system of LED lights and DALI system, which in addition to the energy aspect, allows for notable advantages in economic performance and environmental comfort.
But while the Milanese building presented spaces ready to design, that in Genoa “was a blank sheet”, say the designers. For this branch, the creatives decided to subdivide the floors occupied and pursue the idea of a rib cage that’s sealed at the top: the seventh floor, which hosts the legal and HR departments, responds with a more traditional distribution; the eighth welcomes an acoustically sealed and isolated central space dedicated to meeting rooms, around which other functions gravitate; and on the ninth, the trading room represents the core of the company, designed to be both welcoming and functional, with the best technologies made available for traders. Above, on the tenth floor, in addition to two private offices and a meeting room, is a decompression area and a large terrace offering enough space to take activities outside, from lunches to meetings.
“The best results are obtained only when we’re working with an enlightened client that addresses the design with enthusiasm and passion,” says architect Emanuele Corte, recognizing an engaged client as part of the overall project’s success. It’s this detail that allowed the project to overcome the crisis linked to Covid, which despite bringing the workspaces into question — especially those based on of co-working experiences — was brilliantly resolved in the two offices of Axpo Italia. Between the various solutions, enacted with a longterm vision dedicated to the health of employees well before Covid, the design welcomes ample space for every worker and followed the proposal from Extravega, who served as general contractor for both branches. Inserting an air sanitization system already spread throughout the US, the building converts hydrogen and oxygen in hydrogen peroxide, capable of eliminating bacteria in the air for a space four times cleaner than that outdoors.