Massimilano Locatelli @ Salone Milan 2015

Massimilano Locatelli @ Salone Milan 2015

Milan’s Chiesa San Paolo Converso

The recently opened CLS factory space hosted the installation “It’s All About Meal” by Massimiliano Locatelli ( CLS Architetti ) which explored the concept of a new conviviality in domestic spaces

Locatelli exhibited a series of glass tables ( set under a beautiful hanging art piece of glassware ) in front of the high altar of the Chiesa San Paolo Converso, a 16th-century former Baroque church – and around the back a series of displays of dining tables and tableware, as well as presenting a collection of new seating and tables.


Salone 2015 Project Concept

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Cascading Glassware art piece

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With the new series “Specchio di Venere”  ( = Mirror of Venus ) tables, the wine glasses physical properties evoked a strong sense of transparency and reflection of light, similar to water, to symbolise the creation of life.

These elements which can contruct and deconstruct, become fluid , touching, chasing, and escaping, and remind us of the myth of Narcissus and the reflective water which was his demise.

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Specchio di Venere ( Mirror of Venus ) Tables

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The table project was developed and executed with Glas Italia who produced the “Specchio di Venere” ( = Mirror of Venus ) table in four versions: extra clear glass, extra clear mirrored glass, tinted glass using an internal film, and cast glass with an antique silver finish

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Specchio di Venere Tables is the result of research conducted looking into natural materials related to the tradition of Made in Italy, and are an interpretive evolution of Nuovi Laghi d’Italia, where the transparent and reflective physical properties of glass, and its effects on light, symbolise the creation of life, just as water does.

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Specchio di Venere Tables are made up of five modular and separable tables, with table-tops in extra clear glass and their legs in air blown transparent glass.

Stainless steel rings hold the legs in place.

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Locatelli’s “Specchio di Venere” tables evoke a strong sense of transparency and reflection of light, similar to water.

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Table dining settings

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The installation presented was “It’s All About Meal,” – a series of personalised tableware collections that highlight a relationship between traditional craftsmanship and contemporary sensibility.

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Massimilano Locatelli Seating

Locatelli’s new seats, ML01 – ML02 – ML03, a chair, an armchair and a small armchair, can be transformed into a small bench with a single gesture, and in doing so double their usage.

massimilano locatelli furniture salone milan 2015

The idea for the chair ML01 was born as a means of completing the tables project.

The versatility of the table is linked to the versatility of the accompanying chair: the single chair can be adjusted to make a bench, doubling the number of people within the same space with the same element; a single mechanism to resolve the needs of modern residential spaces and contemporary living habits.

ml 01

ml 02

The small armchair ML02 and the larger armchair ML.03 are both dimensional manipulations of the model ML01, maintaining the original idea of one mechanism, acting as a solution to the needs of modern residential spaces and contemporary living habits.

All models have a raw iron structure, accentuating the technical aspect of the design, at the same time neutralised by traditional fabrics including velvet, cotton and leather.

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ML04 is a detachable table that completes the collection and raises the profile of a simple linoleum finish.

ML04 can accommodate eight diners, be used as a desk or be transformed into two bistro tables. This versatility allows you to have a more flexibile home which can continuously change.

Table-tops: raw iron, linoleum of varying colours / Legs: raw iron

ml 04



 About Architect Massimilano Locatelli

massimilano locatelli

Italian architect Massimiliano Locatelli, is a 49-year-old Bergamese architect who studied under Kenneth Frampton at Columbia University.

He has had a successful career designing multi-million dollar apartments in Zurich, townhouses in New York, penthouses in Hanoi, and sprawling retail stores for clients such as Jill Sander and Michael Kors.

However the offices he opened inside Milan’s Chiesa San Paolo Converso, in early December 2014, for his architectural firm CLS Architetti – is the Everest of his oeuvre.


About Chiesa San Paolo Converso


It was said that the old church of San Paolo Converso in Milan was one it’s best kept secrets !! – but not anymore

Chiesa San Paolo Converso, is a 16th-century former Baroque church  ( deconsecrated after World War II ) and convent in Piazza Sant’Eufemia on Corso Italia, not far from Milan’s celebrated Duomo ( whose facade was fashioned by many of the same skilled craftsmen who later worked on San Paolo)

It is one of only three deconsecrated churches in Milan and is now privately owned.

The baroque façade was designed in 1613 by Crespi.

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This extraordinary former double-spaced church houses a spectacular collection of masterpieces painted by Antonio, Giulio and Vincenzo Campi, of Cremona, and is said to be one of the masterpieces of Lombard Mannerism.

The church’s unknown architect wasn’t famous (perhaps Galeazzo Alessi ), but what has always distinguished San Paolo Converso are the frescoes, ranked among the Campi brothers’ most significant work ( and said to have inspired Caravaggio ).

The church was built for the Convent of the Angelic Sisters of Saint Paul (demolished in 1804) by an unknown architect), with work beginning in 1549. It is likely that it was completed some 40 year later, including all the interior decoration.

The hall of the nuns had once a Pentecost by Simone Peterzano, now in the nearby church of St.Eufemia

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The whole space is decorated with frescos, stucco-work, bas-reliefs and other decorations, revealing that horror vacui (abhorrence of empty space) that so characterised Late Renaissance architecture.

It has a nave with barrel vault, with a wall dividing the church reserved to the nuns to that for the common faithful.

Behind the presbytery are four frescos that depict Scenes from the Life of St Paul, which it is said were the first in the church to be painted.

In the side chapels there are four remarkable paintings – The Beheading of St John the Baptist and a Martyrdom of St Lawrence, both of which are thought to have been a significant influence on Carravagio, a Martyrdom of St Euphemia (by an unknown artist) and Christ Giving the Keys to St Peter.

The most remarkable visual aspect of the church however, is the 500 square metre frescoed vault which is breathtaking in its detail and colour to this day.

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The church was used by Napoleon as a warehouse and after Napoleon dissolved the adjoining convent, the church fell into historical slumber.

The church has been out of religious use for over a century, after a man was shot and killed in its interiors.

In the 1930s, it was renovated by the architect Mezzanotte, and thanks to its excellent acoustics, hosted concerts.

The convent buildings were bombed during World War II (and replaced by buildings by Giò Ponti and Piero Portaluppi, which rather clumsily surround the church).

In the 1960s and ’70s,  the church was used as a recording studio by Maria Callas and Italian pop legend Mina, a.k.a. the Tiger of Cremona

More recently, the building housed the Milan salesroom of Christie’s, with white panels on the walls to display art. “For them it was just a space,” he says.

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Converso entrance nave

The entrance to the offices is through the church’s formal nave, where guests are greeted with an unobstructed view of the vaulted ceiling, a marble altar cut with lapis lazuli and malachite, and a series of Apple computer–topped desks set discreetly behind a balustrade of alcoves.

It is, without doubt, the best office reception area in Italy, if not the world.

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CLS Architetti’s reception desk


I’m not particularly religious and spaces normally never intimidate me,” says Locatelli.  “But when you walk in here and see the altar in front of you—these extreme proportions, the frescoes, and something new built inside a historical place that was born for spiritual purposes—it really hits you.”


CLS Architetti’s Studio in the Church Chapel

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Once the church and Locatelli had agreed on terms for a lease long enough to justify his own investment, they approached the governmental landmarks office for approval.

The steel structure met the criteria that nothing be attached to the building; but, the landmarks office wondered, would it visually obstruct the frescoes in the back of the church ?

No one had dared to build anything inside the church—until Locatelli secured the lease – and created a metal cocoon for his studio staff without ever touching a single church wall.

Renderings showed the impact would not be substantial—what’s more, through weekly tours offered by the firm, visitors would actually be able to better see the artwork, by climbing up into the steel structure.

Sixty people now work in the four-floor studio, whose simple frame form – inspired by Italian oil refineries – stands in contrast to the ornate decoration of its surroundings.

Indeed, sitting in Locatelli’s “module,” as he terms the offices, is an impromptu seminar in Renaissance artistic technique

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In 2014, CLS architects inserted a free-standing black iron box into its core.

Within the cloistered nuns’ quarters of a marble-trimmed and lavishly frescoed 16th-century church, Locatelli erected a four-story, raw iron and glass structure that serves as HQ for himself, his two partners, Annamaria Scevola and Giovanna Cornelio, and their 60 employees.

Though the freestanding structure stretches 49 feet high, nearly grazing the church’s opulent, arched 55-foot ceiling (but never touching it), its sober black lines remain a polite intrusion to the formally sacred space.

This is a four-story, 50-ton structure of black, welded steel – which rises, floor to ceiling and remarkably the structure is entirely disconnected from the church.

It required a radical design vision and a momentous act of engineering.

It is an object,” he says. “A piece of furniture.”

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The floors are connected by a long staircase, again in iron, which crosses the parallelepiped along its entire length.

On the top floor ( nearly touching the ceiling ), there are offices and the glass meeting room, a space suspended over the front church nave overlooking the altar.

Open on all sides, the iron studio touches lightly on its site, without impacting the building’s rich fabric.

The glass walls of each floor of the structure are waist-high, giving an open-air view of the church’s richly painted walls that remained completely untouched.

Each floor offers you a different view of the frescoes,” explains Locatelli, “So you get to see different saints as you travel up.

The structure of the church is alive. It’s beautiful.” …… —Massimiliano Locatelli

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Locatelli’s own top floor office, which peeks out over the altar and into the nave, is open like a convertible car, where the architect can freely take in the magnificent paintings by Renaissance artist brothers Antonio and Vincenzo Campi, of the famed Fratelli Campi di Cremona overhead.

It’s like being next to heaven” the architect says.

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Look one way, and within 10 feet are quadratura paintings, trompe l’oeil images hinting at open spaces beyond the church walls. Look another, and there is an illusionistic di sotto in sù (Italian for “from below to above”) rendering of a saint.

You can really see how they were not painted to be seen from here,” Massimilano Locatelli says. “The hands are huge.”

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Working in paradise, however, does have its drawbacks.

I’ve become much tougher on my staff,” says Locatelli, only half-joking. “Now that we work in such an incredible space, we can’t do anything less than perfect. There are now zero compromises.”

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The resources library, the plastic models laboratory and the kitchen are all located in the cross-vaulted crypt.

Standing in the building’s crypt—a large white room with rows of marble columns reaching up to graceful double-barreled vaults, filled with long tables ( including a “Table of Ideas,” where four employees will spend a year working on blue-sky projects for CLS )

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About CLS Architetti

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Architects Giovanna Cornelio, Massimiliano Locatelli, and Annamaria Scevola founded CLS Architetti in 1993.

Davide Agrati joined later in 2005.

Design in its various scenarios is the spine of the firm, which focuses on the architecture of new buildings, residential buildings, shops, and showrooms across the globe.

The residential buildings created by CLS Architetti are the result of the firm’s close and direct relationship with clients, which develops through diversified interventions finding the perfect balance between existing projects and new ones.

Continuous research on space and materials and the design of details have allowed CLS Architetti to collaborate with major players in the fashion industry, creating bespoke concepts that find their expression in shops, offices, showrooms, and fittings.

The firm’s approach also translates into the design of furnishes for bespoke and corporate projects.

These furnishes are made in collaboration with highly skilled workers, combining tradition and innovation.

Some of these creations are showcased in major design galleries. CLS Architetti has studios in Milan and New York.

The firm has a team of over 60 professionals, including architects, engineers, and designers.

nilufar showroom milan 2015

the nilufar showroom, milan designed by CLS architetti in 2015


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