Tales of Grandeur

Tales of Grandeur

The Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan, undergoes a modern makeover, yet relives the grandeur of early 20th century through its medieval architecture and majestic décor

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The design of a hotel serves as a mediation and cultural link between the traveller arriving from any part of the world and the hosting city, believes designer Marco Piva. And the design of Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan is just that. It is an expression of Milan: its lifestyle, freshness, beauty, fashion and industrial design.

Portrait_Marco Piva

Originally designed by architects Giuseppe Laveni and Aldo Avati in 1932, the grand hotel underwent a major facelift; it was renovated by Studio Marco Piva and reopened to public in May 2015. Starting from the exterior, where the historic part, totally restored, is a strong link with the monumental idea of the town and the new extension, visually connected to the surrounding new modern architectures vastly grooving in that city district.

The grand entrance

The public areas starting from the entrance of the hotel is the designer’s favourite part of the hotel.  The green belts surrounding the hotel create an appeasing environment tempering the strong features of the hotel with the green curtain of trees lining the walkways. The entrance of the hotel offers an undulating display of dimension, lights, materials and furnishing.


The interior court is another focal point in the hotel where the guests can see through a wide skylight, the old and new architecture merging together above their heads.

The cupola, at the seventh floor, is a spectacular dome where more than five hundred fractal modules in retro-lights create a magical effect.

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Impressionistic design

The façade of the new building is transparent and light: it consists of 142 cm wide modules, divided into three sections, with two blind sides and an opening glass panel, which have an inner glass balustrade to transmit light. This element is intended to recall the small balconies, almost levelled with the façades that can be found in many historical buildings in Milan.

The impact of the frame of the building is reduced to a minimum, and the uprights are concealed so as to provide continuity of the façade. The ground floor has floor-to-ceiling windows to convey a sense of transparency and to offer optimal levels of interaction with the city and the surroundings.

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Attention to detail

Each special area is marked and linked to the others through a monumental portal made of black glass, metal and light. Only the central staircase has been preserved from prior distribution of space, renovated and made spectacular with the inclusion of 30-m high Murano glass chandelier: a cascade of 180 light cylinders illuminating the eight floors of this historical staircase.

Each detail inside the hotel has been carefully designed. “I have made more than 5600 sketches and drawing to guarantee a detailed and coordinated design work,” adds Piva.

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The ‘X-shaped design’ is consistent throughout the hotel. The original floor plan of the hotel was lozenge-shaped and the restoration designers inserted the X-shaped design into the hotel to delineate spaces. “While designing the hotel, I thought about the spaces described in Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s book ‘The Great Gatsby,’ set in the early 30s,” exclaims Piva. The black glass, huge mirrors, aluminium and brass, marble polished floors, rustic wooden interiors, fascinating light— all connected to the evolving history of Milan.

Exploring themes

Based on varied themes, the exceptional suite designs offer guests unique emotional and sensory experience. The Design Suites comprise eight trendy suites dedicated to Milan as the fashion and design capital of the world. The rooms display the best of traditional Italian craftsmanship.

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The Atelier Suites, true to its name, are designed to inspire the creative artistic minds where the fil rouge is minute attention to materials, colours, textures and details. Of these, the six corner ones, called the ‘the Poets’ Corner,’ make reference, through interior furnishings and atmosphere, to writers and poets. The Signature Suites inspired by art galleries, theatrical in use of materials, colours, art-works and lighting, have 10 rectangular suites, with large corridors, overlooking the inner courtyard. The Art Suites, having six rooms in all, has ample, full-height, sliding panels and reproduces the art photography of the historical façade within.

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The Executive Suites are laid out to recall metropolitan environments derived from industrial buildings; a unique experience with an elegant allusion to Milan Lofts.

Most of the rooms faces inwards towards the historical part; the others over via Galvani, with a view of the modern Pirelli skyscraper. The Presidential Suite (Gallia Suite), which lies on the fifth floor, offers guests a lavish space of 160 sq. m for movement. The patrons can appreciate precious marbles and design items, crafted by the best traditional Italian manufacturers of modern luxury. The four-poster bed, designed solely for this suite, was made using precious Venetian fabrics by Rubelli.

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The Royal Suite (Katara Suite) is perhaps the most extravagant suite in the hotel. With an expansive space of 1000 sq. m, the suite is equipped with services and large hanging terrace garden. The suite has an exclusive spa surrounded by greenery where plants are chosen carefully based on climate and exposure. The suite also offers a private kitchenette furnished with Limoges porcelain and French crystal.

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The unique geometry of these spaces is dictated by that of the pavilions erected on the seventh floor in the Nineties. The pavilion structures exhibit straight lines, huge chandeliers and a play on reflections on precious materials used such as traditional Italian and Middle Eastern marbles, Classic Rosewood Marble, Afyon White Marble and Black Portoro Buono. The furnishings were designed specifically to make this suite iconic: the bed was conceived as a lotus flower floating on a black lake, the bathroom basins are diamond-shaped with facet modulating the light, for a pure well-being experience.

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Inspired by another era

The choice of materials for common areas was, as a whole, mainly strategic, and linked to durability, from both a colour and materials point of view. It is not linked to current trends but to a general, timeless project concept, one that is modern and not fleeting, and of everlasting beauty.

The most intimate venues, like the cigar room and library, were designed exclusively, as private clubs, with silk-screened glass inspired by the Art Deco periods; from material details narrating culture and history through thick, chamfered, reflecting and silk-screen printed glass to traditional parquet with metal inserts.

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The Cigar Room features a special artwork called ‘No Fire’: a wooden sculpture carved from a centuries-old elm tree trunk, divided into irregular sections and suspended on a metal base. The restaurant and breakfast room (Sala Gallia) floor is made from an external marble frame, while the interior is made from parallel, wooden staves. Designed to appear as a lounge, the space is done up in white with plenty of stools and armchairs. The area overlooking the restaurant is done up in black. The curved wall has the same wainscoting and curtains as the restaurant, while the rest is reflex painted glass. The back of the bar counter is done up in leather.

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Reminiscent of a past era, the hotel is enriched with history, style and elegance, now infused with a modern twist.


Project Details:

Client: Katara Hospitality

Project Type: 5-star Luxury Hotel

Architecture, Landscaping, Lighting, Interior Design: Studio Marco Piva

Site Area: 4,273 sq m

Built Area: 30,840 sq m gross

Project Redesign Period: 2010-2015

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