A team of Australian architects has been chosen to design a sustainable mixed-use library building in Milan, Italy. 

Architect and senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Urtzi Grau, has partnered with architects Jocelyn Froimovich, Stefano Rolla and Laura Signorelli to create a library in the Lorenteggio district of Milan that will anchor the neighbourhood’s social and cultural activities.

The new library will house recreation and reading areas, music and new media resources and spaces for creativity, training and study. In summer, the walls of the ground floor will open out onto the surrounding park.

“The brief for the project included social spaces, it included multifunctional rooms that would allow for activities that aren’t usually associated with a library, like job classes, concerts, kids’ activities – it’s an expanded version of a library that I think is also quite contemporary,” says Grau.

Energy efficiency and sustainability measures are also key to the design. Designed as a greenhouse, the library will have almost no carbon footprint. Solar panels on the roof will enable the building to provide energy to the city grid.

Despite its contemporary feel, Grau says the new library is a nod to the post-war period in which Lorenteggio was built, a time when Milan was going through a wave of modernisation that brought with it a sense of almost limitless potential.  

Grau and his team’s winning design for the Lorenteggio library was selected by the City Council of Milan from more than 200 entries, and responds to years of urban studies and other participatory design initiatives that defined the needs of the Lorenteggio community. It is part of a wider regeneration plan that will strengthen the neighbourhood’s public spaces.  

“We’re coming out of a period in time where we look at city centres as the only place where things should be happening,” says Grau.

“Suburbs on the periphery are still part of the city; therefore, they have rights to the city that’s equal to all other places. This sort of revitalisation project is about recognising those rights and the rights of the citizens, and mitigating the difference in investment, transformation and value.”