Virgin Active Classic in Milan
Flaminia and NIC design
Virgin Active, a company belonging to the Virgin group which operates in various areas of the wellness sector, has introduced to Italy the concept of fitness village associated with a new vision of wellness that embraces a range of all-inclusive services.
Present in Italy with 18 centres — all equipped with gym, rooms for courses, swimming pool, relaxation area with sauna, Turkish bath and whirlpool, personal trainers, bar, restaurant and car park — Virgin Active offers various different solutions. Some clubs are aimed at families and have a children’s area where members can leave their children in the charge of competent staff for the duration of their training, while other clubs cater specifically for the needs of office workers.
The Virgin Active club recently opened in Milan is the only Classic Club in Italy, a fitness village with limited membership that in addition to standard facilities also offers its members other exclusive services such as the business lounge with Wi-Fi area, changing rooms with personalised lockers, a terrace with whirlpool tub and valet parking.
Located in a strategic area of the city where new construction and urban regeneration projects have long been in progress, the new centre was created by restoring a similar existing structure, which was completely redesigned by Studio Franco Scaglia, a firm that has extensive experience and a high level of expertise in this area.
«This is certainly the most challenging Wellness Club project that my studio has ever carried out,» affirms architect Franco Scaglia. «The structural complexity of the building (ground floor and two basement floors) greatly complicated the work of organising the layout, which was updated continuously until we had 15 different versions. Furthermore, as this was the first Virgin Active Club Classic (the highest level of the British club chain) in Italy, we had to rethink the relationship between space and function, naturally in agreement with the client.»
When developing the project, the swimming pool constituted the most significant structural constraint because it already existed and therefore could not be moved, only redesigned. As a result, all the wet spa areas were placed on the lowest basement level, which created a certain amount of difficulty with the vertical connections.
In terms of the interior design and overall image of the village, the client’s request was very clear: to seek and achieve the right balance between the Virgin philosophy and exploitation of the exclusive elements, which consisted on the one hand of the location in a very lively and dynamic area of the city (Corso Como) and on the other maintaining the prestige of the previous centre (Club Conti).
For this purpose, the designers experimented with new solutions such as the two different kinds of changing room, the private lounge and above all the Virgin Café, the first of its kind. This exclusive space overlooking Via Tocqueville is envisioned not just as a restaurant reserved for the Club but also as a venue that would be able to stay open until late at night. Other exclusive services such as a hairdresser, laundry and day spa round off the facilities that this club offers its members.
The selection of finishing materials played a crucial role in the design stage and the choice of using ceramic for most of the surfaces proved highly successful both aesthetically and compositionally and in terms of technical and functional performance.
With the exception of the swimming pool and whirlpool tub, which are made of stone, all the floors and walls in the wet areas and changing rooms, gym and service areas are tiled with ceramic, combining various different series from the Floor Gres, Rex and Casa dolce casa brands — all owned by Florim — and using collections with textures reminiscent of wood.