The word “palazzo” is thrown around loosely here. At the end of the day, it’s used to mean “apartment building.” But there are, in Milan, palazzi which deserve the unavoidable association an English speaker makes with the word “palace.” Here and there, usually on corners, but not always, are truly palatial-looking buildings. Ornate, grand, fairy-tale like, with an architectural vernacular verging—successfully, I’d say—on the brink of kitsch-castle.
I spotted this one the other day while ambulating in a neighborhood far outside my beaten path. It was impossible not to stare at its various textures—real and faux—and to marvel at the mix of materials. I suppose what holds it all together is the color palette, which grows out of those earthly prime materials: argilla (clay, as in brick), limestone (cement), and marble (both real and trompe l’oeil).
It’s a building to touch, to read in braille with outstretched fingers—who can resist those pyramid shaped bricks? The tiles in the entry way? The lion’s head perched above the necessary bureaucratic signage? The rough, gravelly stone cladding the building’s base? The bricks set in the traditional offset pattern but also in a gridded formation, outlining the iron-clad symmetry of the structure? And even the horizontal ridges of the closed taparelle (exterior window blinds)?
What story would these walls tell? I wonder. You can only imagine that the lives lived inside them contain some of the same conflicting elements, no? Intrigue, art and artifice, discipline and chaos, exuberance and sobriety, harmony and the lack thereof, and above all the desperate Milanese need to maintain appearances at all costs.