Milan’s grand entrances

The Milanese know how to create a good impression, says Edwin Heathcote, who finds the hallways of the city’s buildings rich in mosaic, marble and style

Listen to this article


Milan is all about appearances. The right suit, the right tie with the right knot, the right label and the right cut of skirt with exactly the right shoes. It is about the right drink at the right time of day in the right bar. And your place to live is no different: first impressions are everything. So the city has expended a huge amount of effort on its hallways, those interstitial zones between the street and the apartment. But as what at first appears to be a superficial desire to impress becomes inscribed in the fabric of the city, it passes from the private to the civic, and these interiors become an ornament to the public realm.

Like the city’s beautiful shop windows, the glimpses into these hallways become little moments of theatre. Flashes of colour and exotic materials, elegantly wrought metalwork and crisp terrazzo, sculptural concrete, mirror-polished marble, mosaic, trompe l’oeil and operatic stairs all add to the drama of everyday life and the surreptitious thrill of appearing to see into someone else’s life, even though all you get is what has been very deliberately revealed.

These hallways are stage-set architectures for lives lived in public, in which the realm of the street is allowed to penetrate just a little into the interior, illuminating the city with surprise, flair and beauty.

Marble walls and travertine pilaster at Palazzo Civita, Piazza Eleonora Duse 2 (1927-33, architect Gigiotti Zanini) © Paola Pansini
Balmoral granite floor and Carrara marble walls at via Legnano 4 (1956-57, architect Gigi Ghò) © Paola Pansini
Bright yellows and reds at via Francesco Cilea 106, Gallaratese (1967-74, architect Carlo Aymonino) © Delfino Sisto Legnani
Vibrant colour and enamelled door handles at via Paravia 37 (1965, architect Umberto Riva) © Delfino Sisto Legnani
Floor of serpentinite, Carrara marble and Porta Santa limestone, with sconce by Gio Ponti, at via Giuseppe Dezza 49 (1952-56, architects Gio Ponti, Antonio Fornaroli and Alberto Rosselli) © Delfino Sisto Legnani
Carrara marble floor and Rosso Collemandina limestone stairs at via Sant’Antonio Maria Zaccaria 3 (1951, architect Gigi Ghò) © Delfino Sisto Legnani

These photographs are taken from ‘Entryways of Milan’, edited by Karl Kolbitz, published by Taschen Books on April 12, £49.99

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.