The Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel & Conference Centre / King Roselli Architetti

© Santi Caleca

Architects: King Roselli Architetti – Riccardo Roselli
Location: Milan,
Project Architect: Arianna Nobile
Interior Design: Daniele Del Prete
Design Team: Andrea Ricci, Mario Augusti, Katia Scarioni, Giandomenico Florio, Fabrizio Bonatti
Landscape: Dana Vocino
Consultant: Federica Pistola, Andrea Imbrenda
Client: DEC
Project area: 50,000 sqm
Photographs: Santi Caleca

was commissioned to design the exteriors of this large hotel in front of Malpensa International Airport as a result of competition winning entry for the overall design of the building. Despite its size (420m long, 64m wide, 21m high) the building was conceived as a design object. Partly because Milan is Italy’s design capital, and partly because we were interested in investigating the technical and architectural properties of a skin or membrane to be perceived dynamically as façade not only on its four sides but also the roof- visible from the access road to the airport complex. The hotel has 436 rooms, a conference centre, a spa accessible directly from the airport.

© Santi Caleca


We were looking for a seamless shell to fold around the functional volumes of the buildings. After researching and detailing a number of alternatives we finally opted for pultruded fibreglass panels. Pultrusion is a manufacturing process combining extrusion and pulling fibreglass through a die that can provide panels up to 1400mm wide and almost infinite lengths- we needed lengths of up to 25 meters. The material has a series of qualities highly suitable for building: it is light weight, elastic, very stable in extreme temperatures (-20°C to +50°C), fireproof and waterproof. This material is more often used for industrial products and so an enormous experience of precision detailing to tight tolerances has been accumulated which came in very useful in the detail design of the membrane.

© Santi Caleca

The shell is curved around a subframe of pultruded structural profiles and steel arches, wrapping the entire length of each bay in a smooth, continuous skin. The almost flat roof is treated as a façade to be seen from the airport, with openings onto terraces, light-wells or interior courts. The plant extracts and ventilation “breath” through vents twisted out of the roof membrane.

© Santi Caleca

Guest Room Blocks

The layouts of the rooms are organised in seven bays separated by courtyards which give a bar-code form to the plan and avoid a direct view from the airport into guest rooms. The western face of the hotel is left open to emphasis the horizontality of the volume with shallow water pools set into the lower level at the ends.

© Santi Caleca


On the open (west) side these blocks of rooms articulate the façade in an irregular sequence of solid and void. The solids in turn are articulated by a series of thick sculptural PVC blackout curtains which give both depth and dynamic to the overall elevation. Though normally considered an item of interior design, the black-out curtains were seen as an integral part of the façade from an early stage. The regularity on the mullion and transom grid is syncopated by the irregularity of the curtains seen through the extra-clear glass.

model 02


The movement of people as they arrive and leave the airport, the tension created between solid and void, curved and straight line, the play of light reflected off and through the building , provide a variation of views and give a dynamic to the architecture that were looking for.

© Santi Caleca

Tensile Structures

Between each block of rooms the emergency staircases, also seen from the airport side through the transparent corridor links, will be clad in a tensile structure (to be built in the coming months). Stretching over the staircase and between the blocks, this essential component completing the design of the western façade with its sculptural organic form, bonds the parts together and gives a tension to the overall composition.

© Santi Caleca

Building as large scale Product Design

The perception of the building, often seen as a whole despite its length, held together in a seamless shell reinforces the idea of it as a piece of product design on an urban scale.

plan 01


About half-way through the design of the building exteriors we were asked by Starwood (Sheraton) to design the main entrance spaces of the hotel. All other interiors (guest rooms, conference centre, restaurants) were designed by Saporiti Design Hotel.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "The Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel & Conference Centre / King Roselli Architetti" 09 May 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • MJ

    What seems to a be a real afterthought in this whole plan are the guest rooms. It looks like, due to the plan’s overall faux-stochastic array of the “functional volumes” along the circulatory spine, that the view out of most of the rooms is across a narrow alcove to other guest rooms. The plan has created a majority of inside facing rooms, with what looks like just a few outside facing rooms.

    • Vitor Lucas

      “The layouts of the rooms are organised in seven bays separated by courtyards which give a bar-code form to the plan and avoid a direct view from the airport into guest rooms.”
      Direct view from the airport is not good.

      • MJ

        Yes, probably not good. So instead you have a direct view from other guest rooms. Also not good. Avoiding one problem by causing another.