10.09.2018  10:00

One of the most beautiful airports in the world, signed by two Alumni

Leonardo Cavalli and Giulio De Carli, desk mates at Politecnico di Milano, are the founders of One Works, the top architectural firm in Italy in terms of turnover. They signed the design of one of the most beautiful and technological airports in the world, in the view of Corriere della Sera

Leonardo Cavalli and Giulio De Carli, both of them Polimi Architects who graduated in 1986, head the largest Italian architectural firm in terms of turnover and signed the design of one of the most beautiful airports: that of Venice, whose extension will be completed in 2027.


Due not only to the implementation times, but to its life cycle as well, a work of this kind is designed having in mind the traveller flow one might get in 5, 20 or 50 years. “Such a long-term project demands a lot of flexibility”, says De Carli. “The works began at the end of 2014 and envisage three gradual enlargement phases. We have shaped the design having clearly in our mind a strong architectural form that was at the same time able to include within it the flexibility necessary to accommodate future needs as well.” The flexible project, in fact, contemplates some permanent structural elements and the possibility of adapting and readapting the internal layout of the airport in accordance with the growing flow of travellers who depart from or arrive at the Venice Marco Polo airport from all over the world.


 “It is a complex project, both because we are dealing with critical issues typical of airports, such as functionality, service levels and concordance between demand and offer of infrastructures and traffic volumes, and for the peculiarities of the territory it is part of, the Venice lagoon: an extremely fragile landscape and environmental context with scarcely available land. We have contained consumption and worked to enhance the specificities of Venetian architecture, with the aim of creating a functional building in harmony with the territory and with the history it belongs to. We think we succeeded in retaining the architectural quality of the airport inaugurated in 2002, reinterpreting the identity characters with materials and technologies more in line with our times and those to come,” the two architects comment. “We did not draw our inspiration from the theme of flying as is often the case when designing airports, whose spaces usually recall the aerodynamic forms of aircrafts. It is a brick building, classical, in one sense, yet luminous, with an access arcade having a transparent cover that allows you to see the sky and offers a luminous quality that is not typical of this kind of buildings.” The Marco Polo airport represents Venice’s 


The two architects met at Politecnico di Milano in 1983: “we were desk mates at the architectural composition programme run by Prof Pierluigi Nicolin, and at one point I realised that Giulio’s design was more interesting than mine, so I started working with him,” Leonardo commented. “Luckily, since on my own I would not have known where to start implementing it!”, Giulio replied. Pooling resources is one of the lessons they carry with them since the Politecnico days. “Even after graduating we retained a non-individualist idea of work and, by founding One Works, we wanted to create an open architectural firm, one which all the persons collaborating with it could identify with. The value and talent of the single individuals adds up and is multiplied in the more general ability of the structure to preserve these qualities. At the root there is a dream and a desire, it is not an industrial strategy. The affinity of vision and sharing this dream have been essential to overcome difficulties. When, in 2010, we tackled the change in scale as a result of opening up to the international markets, we went through a critical moment. We sat around a table not with the aim of making ends meet that year, but in order to open a new perspective and accordingly revert to the initial desire.”The next steps have yielded increasingly greater international exposure, with Politecnico di Milano as their business card. “When you are a student you do not perceive it, but graduating from the Politecnico is an exceptional reference to submit to customers throughout the world. It was a discovery for us, too, it represents a guarantee at international level, and for us it was a competitive advantage, as if we had successfully passed the first selection.”

Advice for young people

We have noticed a big change in new graduates, who are increasingly more cosmopolitan, and they probably know it, therefore. It is essential to discover what is happening outside our comfort zone, extending their gaze to the whole world as if it was a playing field. It is not enough to look through the eye of the net, they need to dirty their hands: physically going to experience and know distant worlds and opening up to cultural contamination. In this way, we learn to face new challenges in our own backyard as well. Italy has so many resources and to develop them it needs to receive as many new stimuli as it is capable of giving to the rest of the world



Identity Card

  • Leonardo Cavalli and Giulio De Carli
  • 1986 Polimi Architecture Alumni
  • Founders of One Works

Image Credit: Alessandra Chemollo