Case study: Hotel Gallia, Milan

Following a multi-million euro renovation, Italian designer Marco Piva has restored one of Milan’s historic hotels to its former glory.

Restoring the hotel to its original splendour, the Milanese landmark, Excelsior Hotel Gallia, has recently been reopened in the heart of the emerging Porta Nuova district. Led by the award-winning Milan-based Studio Marco Piva, the hotel has undergone a multi-million Euro renovation of the historic building with the addition of modern new wing with a facade that resembles a delicate steel and glass curtain.

The renovation and expansion of the Excelsior Hotel Gallia is part of the wider urban redevelopment of Piazza Duca D’Aosta, following the recent completion of the modernization works at the Central Station. Katara Hospitality, an international investment fund from Qatar, has acquired the hotel, which consists of a 1930s building and an extension dating from the early 1960s known as the Pirelli Wing.

“Excelsior Hotel Gallia is a magnificent property that has undergone a careful renovation and strategic expansion that marries contemporary design with the hotel’s Belle Époque architectural style, ensuring that this remains as one of Milan’s historic landmarks,” says Sheikh Nawaf Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani, Chairman of Katara Hospitality.

Following its almost hundred-years-old tradition, it has been designed to host the most exclusive art, fashion and sports events.

“I wanted to create a place linked to Milan’s history of excellence. A special place integrating and enhancing its architectural, design, customs and fashion values. My project wanted to give Milan and travellers from all over the world an example of style and elegance, excellence in its welcome and elegant hospitality,” explains Marco Piva.

“The project concept is a reference to the Milan lifestyle, to the unique set of dynamic elements that have always been a feature of the life of the city: the unceasing interaction of the local culture with the most diverse range of other cultures, which has always been characterised by an emphasis on newness, beauty, fashion, industrial design and the dynamic, positive lifestyle in which Milan is immersed.”


The design approach was inspired by a study of the location and history of the building and by people’s memories.

“All these elements are at the heart of the design process. The study of the site, with special emphasis on the urban context and its historical characteristics, was the starting point for the volumes, materials and formal aspects of the work we aimed to accomplish. The input we obtained from the recollections of individuals and the community at large was essential for identifying the new structure of the building that needed to be rendered more functional. For example, the Excelsior Hotel Gallia was frequented for many years by journalists and writers, hosted meetings of Italy’s football community for decades, and was often used as a film or television set.”


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The design studio also curated a unique collection of more than 500 art pieces, including paintings, sculptures and pictures. The interiors feature distinct references to the elegance of the Art Deco era, brought to life by furnishings that have been exclusively created by Italian designers and craftsmen.

“Metals, wood, glass are just some of the materials used for the artworks, which relate with hotel interiors and the city’s history – like, for example, those inspired by writers and poets who have visited Milan,” adds Piva.

Following the renovation, Excelsior Hotel Gallia now features 235 luxurious guest rooms, including 53 suites. The hotel’s Signature Suites were conceived as art galleries with use of illumination, colours and artwork, while the Executive Suites were inspired by the atmosphere of Milanese lofts.

Marco Piva dedicated five suites, one on each floor, to “gentlemen of Italian design” – Vico Magistretti, Achille Castiglioni, Giò Ponti, Luigi Caccia Dominioni and Franco Albini. Furniture items designed by these masters are fitted into the suites to portray the values of design and their care over aesthetic and functional details.

Light dominates the spaces throughout the hotel through a play between natural and artificial lights. Guests entering the hotel are welcomed by the custom-made 30m Murano glass chandelier by De Majo, which comprises of 180 light cylinders illuminating the eight-storey stairwell. LED lighting systems have been used for both the exteriors and interiors to ensure a longer life for the systems and therefore less maintenance, with consequent substantial energy and cost savings.

On the ground floor, guests can relax in the Gallia Lounge and Bar where the Library and Cigar Room offer a warm ambience among silkscreened glass with patterns inspired by the Art Deco era. The public spaces have been fitted out by B&B Italia using aluminium, glass and marble, while the floors in the reception and lobby are paved with elegant brown antique granite with silver accent.


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An internal promenade, almost 100m long, connects the historical wing’s common spaces with the new building’s Grand Hall. For choice and use of materials, Marco Piva started by studying the original materials and surfaces and used a number of references from 1930s Milan architecture, such as the La Scala Theatre, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Villa Necchi Campiglio and Milanese courtyards.

“Choice and use of materials was fundamental for narrating spaces. For example, to highlight passing through golden portals giving rhythm to architectural passages to give guests the sensation they are crossing important passages, not just functional but almost landmark gates: from a modern to a historical building,” adds Piva.

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