EXCELSIOR HOTEL GALLIA, MILAN
The Excelsior Hotel Gallia first opened in 1932 on
what was then the outskirts of Milan – an elegant
building with a Liberty-style façade set off by an
imposing dome. It became a byword for luxury and
sophistication and a magnet for Italy’s social elite.
Today it sits on the Piazza Duca D’Aosta, a refined
rebuke to the overbearing Central Station, proudly
sporting a new wing designed by Milan-based Studio
Marco Piva. In fact, the renovation and expansion
of the hotel is part of a wider redevelopment of the
Piazza and the station.
Marco Piva has grafted contemporary aesthetics on to
the hotel’s original belle époque character in ways that
sometimes appear shockingly futuristic, but care has
been taken not to lose the building’s soul. Although
the new wing suggests modern dynamism through
use of clean shapes, light colours and modern
materials such as glass and steel, the hotel’s essence of
sophisticated refinement remains intact.
Throughout the building the interiors are sleek
and chic, retaining many art deco visual flourishes.
Furnishings are achingly elegant and made in Italy,
and there is liberal use of polished, reflective surfaces,
such as brown antique marble that creates a kind
of black lake. Minimalist, modernist touches, such
as the aluminium hanging lights in the lobby, blend
well with the unfussy shapes and lines. Natural and
artificial light streams through the fluid interior
spaces, bringing everything to glittering life.
Specially commissioned light installations positioned
throughout the building provide illumination and
points of wonder. Most outstanding is De Majo’s
breathtaking 30-metre-high Murano glass chandelier
above the historic central staircase, sending a waterfall
of 180 light cylinders cascading through the floors.
The idiosyncratic layout of the Royal Suite was
dictated by two large steel pavilions added to the
building’s original structure in the 1990s. Today
Left: The staircase to the
swimming pool in the spa,
awash with light
Opposite: guests can relax under
the seventh floor cupola