The Galleria

Piazza Del Duomo
Milan, Italy

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

An arched, glass ceiling connects several Neo-Classical buildings, creating an indoor shopping arcade adjacent to Milan's central square.

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History & Background

Architect Giuseppe Mengoni refurbished the Piazza Duomo, Milanís central square, in the middle of the 19th Century, and built the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in 1877. He created a covered shopping area by building an arched iron-and-glass ceiling over the intersection of two major streets. The glass roof connected the existing Neo-Classical buildings along these two ornately tiles streets. The arcade included shops and restaurants, and offices and apartments occupied upper floors.

Both the materials he used and the concept of creating an enclosed shopping area were innovative at the time. The model would soon be replicated in many cities, Naples and Moscow, to name two. The Galleria is not completely enclosed, however; the arched doorways are open.

The Neo-Classical design of the North and South entrances was intended to be repeated on the West side, but was never completed. Just one day before the Galleria was inaugurated, as Mengoni was inspecting some decorative work from scaffolding, he slipped, fell, and plunged to his death.

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