The final draft Giuseppe Mengoni

Before being finally approved on September 7 1864, Giuseppe Mengoni’s project, which had won the competition in the previous year, underwent several modifications based on the architect’s amendments, on the more detailed information provided by the jury and the d ‘Ornate Commission, which had been monitoring the architectural quality of new city buildings since 1807.

Several major changes are noticeable when comparing it to the 1863 project, such as the addition of two shorter arms towards Via Silvio Pellico and Via Ugo Foscolo, which turned the single track into a crossroad with a central “square”, and lent a distinctly urban significance to the architectural design. It also changed the opening towards La Scala, which intersects the square at a forcibly oblique angle and was turned from a hemicycle to a polygonal open space; the decorative apparatus was improved, but most importantly, the volume of the Gallery was changed.

The new piazza del Duomo and vicinity”, axonometry of architect Giuseppe Mengoni’s final project.From civica Raccolta di Stampe Bertarelli, PV g 2-38

Having increased the number of floors from two (on top of the ground floor) to four, the last of which was invisible from inside, because its was hidden from the roof, the Galleria grew in height and width so as to boost revenues, but also to become a new urban-architectural space, rich in monumental and environmental values, which made it an undisputed international model.

In its final configuration, the Galleria comprised 1260 venues, which bottom up included 298 rooms in the basement; 160 were located on the ground floor of which 92 and just as many shop lights overlooked the covered area; 154 rooms on the mezzanine; 121 on the first floor; 171 on the second floor; 173 on the third floor; 183 on the fourth floor (only visible from the indoor courtyards).

Cross-section of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. From “Milano tecnica dal 1859 al 1884”, Hoepli, Milan 1885.

This was, therefore, a huge building of unprecedented importance both from a technical and a financial point of view, whose realisation required the City Hall to seek the support of foreign capital. In such circumstances, Mengoni proved particularly skilled, engaging in the pursuit of the most appropriate and feasible solutions: it was also thanks to his interest that, in 1864, he formed the “The City of Milan Improvements Company Limited”, an English contractor company with whom the City Hall signed the construction contract on January 11, 1865.

First page of the building contract of GVE, stipulated between the Municipality of Milan and «The City of Milan Improvements Company», January 11, 1865.From Archivio Storico Civico Biblioteca Trivulziana.

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