On one of the busiest stretches of the Milano-Laghi motorway, a silver volcano reaches 30 meters into the sky. At night, it lights up bright red. This distinctive building is a more recent addition to a roadside service station that has been standing on this highway since the 1950s.
The service area originally opened in 1958 as a parking lot on the Autostrada dei Laghi, the current A8 and A9, direction from Milan to Como for the roadside restaurant on the other side of the road (reachable by a pedestrian tunnel). Designed by the architect Angelo Bianchetti, it featured a pyramid-shaped white scaffolding over a circular building holding a service station, bar, and restaurant. Life magazine called it “an expression of Italian luxury.”
In 2013, another structure rose on the other side of the highway. Designed by architect Giulio Ceppi, the goal of the project was to establish a dialogue with the historical service station. It was built with sustainability in mind, focusing on energy efficiency and minimizing the building’s ecological footprint.
The laminated wood structure of the roof of the new Autogrill creates a curved volume across a 4,000-square-meter shelter, which detaches from the ground to rise up to 28 meters above the main body. Each axis has a different radius of curvature, thus complying with the complex geometry in a concentric manner until reaching the large glass dome at the top. The annular beams are supported by pairs of pillars arranged in a V shape with a circular section and made of laminated wood. This innovative solution accentuates the lightness of the wooden roof.