The design of Milan’s Excelsior Hotel Gallia transcends the functional through use of custom chandeliers and fixtures
By Vilma Barr
Italian architect Marco Piva rightfully identifies his practice as that of “master planner.” When his firm, Studio Marco Piva, was selected in 2011 to lead the renovation and expansion of Milan’s Excelsior Hotel Gallia, one of the most prestigious hotels in Europe, Piva, who is based in Milan, knew he’d be applying all the multidisciplinary skills at his disposal. His program brief from the owners was to transform the nearly century-old architectural jewel that combines a Belle Epoque exterior with an Art Deco-inspired interior into a singularly classic new destination in the highly competitive luxury hospitality market.
Throughout the five-year renovation, Piva assumed the role of architect, interior designer, lighting designer, product design manager and fine artconsultant, while enlisting the services of over 200 suppliers, many Italian. In addition to restaurants and lobby space, the renovation encompasses 286 guest rooms and themed suites that range from generously-sized single rooms to the 10,000-sq ft, four-bedroom Katara suite which has its own solarium, spa and butler. “I wanted to create the place in Milan that’s linked to the city’s image of excellence in architecture, design and fashion,” says Piva.
Piva references a career-long fascination with lighting that he brings to his practice. The value of light goes beyond its technical, optic and sensorial aspects to giving emphasis to situations and moods. “To me, lighting transcends its purely functional uses to become both emotional and narrative elements. By following this concept my team is sensitive to the magic and emotion light can create. Throughout this project, materials, textures and colors are enhanced, especially when the source of the light is not visible.”
For the Excelsior’s interior, Piva says his choices between chandeliers, pendants, sconces and luminaires depended on what was to be emphasized in the hotel’s many different spaces. More than a thousand light sources were identified from the initial planning stage. “Every light is tailored to specific space needs.” A tour of the hotel starts now:
When seen from above, the mall’s grid-like pattern resembles the skin of a diamondback snake. At left are the new LED fixtures. At right (and inset) are HPS fixtures that replaced the original incandescent source.
Vilma Barr is a freelance writer and contributor to LD+A.