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michele de lucchi + AMDL circle restore archiepiscopal seminary for 'portrait milano’ hotel

Michele de Lucchi on portrait milano


Italian architect Michele De Lucchi and his creative multidisciplinary studio AMDL CIRCLE restore a historic archbishop seminary in Corso Venezia, Milan, the area between Piazza San Babila and the quadrilateral of fashion, and tailor its hospitality complex to the pleasures of modern luxury.


Serving as the opulent home of the Portrait Milano hotel, manned by the Ferragamo family, the seven-year restoration project retains and shifts a foray into symbolic and contemporary design elements that seamlessly hark back to 16th-century life in Milan.


The monumental porticoed cloister has taken on a new role, welcoming the public into its revamped piazza brimming with an array of shops and restaurants surrounding a luxury hotel. The project by AMDL CIRCLE conserves the original construction characteristics from the thoroughly detailed cornices and grand apertures to the earth and soft palettes and natural and locally sourced materials.

michele de lucchi amdl circle
images courtesy of AMDL Circle



The frames of the doors and windows anchor two-door shutters and glass doors to soften the impact of the large wall surfaces. Present-day business logos and graphics are imprinted onto the glass doors and windows, yet De Lucchi and his team ensure certain requirements in their design to guarantee the uniformity of the façades and the ‘visual silence’ that is appropriate to the seminary.


To transform the seminary into a hotel, the internal boarding, mostly fitted in the 1970s, has been removed. The heart of the architectural interventions trails behind the construction of the new staircases and lifts that connect the levels of the structure while respecting the regulations in force ( such asremoval of architectural barriers, fire prevention).


For the positioning of the new staircases and lifts, historical research has been conducted into the previous demolition work to date the actual original wall structures and to define the position of staircases and lifts without affecting the historical parts.

michele de lucchi amdl circle
the restored archbishop seminary is now the home of Portrait Milano



Thoroughly designed restoration


The heart space of the restored archbishop seminary lies in the expansive cloister of the property. ‘At the center of it all is the cloister, which was the core of the seminary and is now the heart of the new complex. The courtyard framed by the double loggia of paired columns becomes a new square open to the city and connects two busy streets in the shopping promenade,’ says De Lucchi.


He adds that ‘A route is born that circuits Via della Spiga, with Montenapoleone and San Babila. It is a “shortcut” to be discovered, where one can meet people, ideas, atmospheres; a new road that is inevitable for anyone who wants to visit Milan and the fashion quadrilateral.’


De Lucchi and his team at AMDL Circle frame the cloister of Portrait Milano hotel with a double loggia of coupled columns on four sides as De Lucchi mentioned, exhibiting all of its ecclesiastical architecture. On the ground floor, the porticos receive the guests as the entrance to the restaurants, the café-bistros, the exclusive boutiques, and the Portrait Milano hotel.

michele de lucchi amdl circle
the seven-year restoration project retains the design elements that recall 16th-century life in milan



The loggia on the first floor, intentionally left open as in the 16th century, is reserved for customers of the hotel, who access their rooms from here.  Strolling inside the restored piazza, each wing embodies its own character. The hotel reception finds its natural location on the right by the entrance porch in Corso Venezia, serving as the main entrance. 


On the left side, two double-height rooms are used as a cultural space and a meeting room. The north side can be used for its entire length, and the restaurant and the hotel cafeteria with access to the garden are located here. The garden emerges as a refined green space that comes with a light veranda, embellished by the restoration of the existing architectural elements. 


The double-facing boutiques, which benefit from exposure from the street and views of the grand cloister, are located on the west side of the building that overlooks the business district of Via Sant’Andrea. In the south end, a spacious restaurant enjoys an abundance of natural light from its position, housed between two antique stairways.

michele de lucchi amdl circle
the monumental porticoed cloister welcomes visitors into its revamped piazza with an array of shops and restaurants



Discreet evening lighting for a serene effect


The somber appearance of the internal frontages recalls the greenery of the old eras. Plants in vases with bushes, trees, seasonal flowers, and herbs vary in color, and their heights create areas of vegetation interspersed with benches, tables, and street lamps.


The vegetation interrupts the monotony of stone and cement, and the grandeur of the monument shares its space with a number of small green areas flowing uninterruptedly. De Lucchi and his team even curate the center of the seminary as a temporary sojourn for pavilions, events, and displays.


‘The sightseeing tour is then more than worthwhile because of the architectural value of the colonnade and the Renaissance perfection of the proportions. With the inclusion of many potted plants and night lighting, calibrated and discreet, the uniformity of the stone is interrupted without affecting it.


The austere and severe character of the ancient seminary is thus diluted by many small details that bring the monument closer to human proportions. This is a remarkable architecture where art of the past and contemporary lifestyles are combined,’ says De Lucchi.

michele de lucchi amdl circle
render of the piazza



When the night comes, discreet lighting comes to life, adding a harmonious effect around the hospitality complex in Milan. The colonnades, cornices, and façades are highlighted by light points to underline their shapes and three-dimensionality. They are emphasized by the backlighting effects of the evening illumination to carve an impression of a serene building in an ancient tradition.


De Lucchi and AMDL Circle read up on the historical morphology of the doors and windows, conducted with the Achille Bertarelli civic print collection, to comprehend what synergy they could devise between the new use of the complex and its history.


For a city as historical as Milan, completely demolishing a building to make way for a new one is simply not on the table. Rather than even considering it, the design team follows the scenic, expansive, and historic heartlines of the city and the seminary and conforms to the luxurious standards of both past and present.


Portrait Milano by Michele De Lucchi + AMDL Circle

michele de lucchi amdl circle
the project conserves the original construction characteristics from the thoroughly detailed cornices to the grand apertures

michele de lucchi amdl circle
the frames of the doors and windows anchor two-door shutters and glass doors to soften the impact of the large wall surfaces




project info:


name: Portrait Milano

design: Michele De Lucchi + AMDL Circle


studio team

lead: Michele De Lucchi

studio director: Angelo Micheli

deputy studio director: Davide Angeli

coordinator: Pico De Lucchi

architecture art director: Nicholas Bewick


restoration project team

project manager, artistic director: Alberto Bianchi

interior design: Michele Bonan Architetto

project team: Federica Iula, Filippo Meda, Neri D’Alessandro, Emilio Mossa

client: Portrait Milano / Lungarno Alberghi S.r.l.

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