The people of Milan prefer to leave town on summer weekends, but a few—like architect Michele Pasini—have no choice but to stay and work.
“I would define myself as practical, a quality that is reflected in my approach to projects,” Pasini says in his apartment on a Saturday afternoon in July. “On the other hand, there is a part of me that loves surprises, and when I create, I like to include an element clashing with the overall harmony. In a melody, a discordant note can be extremely interesting.”
This story first appeared in the September 22, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Pasini made his name as a member of Storage Associati, a Milan-based architecture studio that has designed a few of the hottest spots in town, including Ceresio 7, a hyper-cool bar and restaurant with two swimming pools, located on the rooftop of the Dsquared2 headquarters. This has lately become the go-to spot for those in the know among the international fashion crowd.
“When they brought us on the top of the building, where there is the restaurant now, there was absolutely nothing,” Pasini says, recalling the beginning of the project, which was commissioned by Dean and Dan Caten, the identical twins who own and run Dsquared2. “It was a flat surface, and the skyline of the city was also different. It was the Milan of six years ago. I think that the first thing Dean and Dan said was, ‘How cool, to build a restaurant here!’ ”
Along with partners Marco Donati and Barbara Ghidoni, Pasini renovated the entire 1930s-era building, inside and out. The idea, Pasini says, was to “give back to the building some of the dignity of its era, in a modern key.”
The work was completed in September 2013, with another Milanese design team, Dimore Studio, taking care of the decorating. The project was part of a collaboration between Dsquared2 and Storage Associati that goes back ten years, to the creation of the first Dsquared2 shops in Asia. “We grew up together, and this enabled the DNA of Dsquared2 to get into our veins in a very simple and natural way,” Pasini says.
The British designer Neil Barrett is the latest fashion executive to commission Pasini, Ghidoni, and Donati: The three architects are transforming a building, not far from Dsquared2, to serve as his Milan headquarters. “With Neil, we are longtime friends,” Pasini says. “We wanted it, it happened, and I’m so proud he came to us.”
The Storage Associati portfolio also includes Fay, Ports 1961, Tod’s, Versace Collection and Jeans, as well as Milanese retailer Claudio Antonioli and footwear designer Bruno Bordese.
How have Pasini and his partners gotten so tight with fashion companies? Simply by going out, Pasini says: “We have always been people used to going out a lot, which means great, fun nights. I love to stay out late; I love dark and night. But at the same time, I wake up very early—so I sleep very little.”
Pasini is a frequent visitor to 1930, a private club that serves the best drinks in Milan; Dry, a bar and restaurant in Brera; and Carlo Cracco’s new venture, Carlo e Camilla, in Segheria. Still, he is usually up early enough to take his West Highland white terrier, Toto, for a walk before the sun is up.
“I don’t think Milan is beautiful,” he says. “I think it’s ugly, untidy, not suitable to be considered the capital of design. But recently, strolling around the center with my dog—it was still dark—and looking at the entrances of the buildings, I saw that famous Milanese elegance, which everybody talks about and that has never been evident to me. It was there in front of me.”
Little by little, Pasini says, the city is dropping the weight of its past. “Finally, you have the feeling you are going out in an international city,” he says. “In the past three years, people in Milan have started to take some risks. Actually, the city is opening, and it’s feeding itself with those new realities, especially linked with food, which is making the city more interesting and vivacious.”
In addition to Ceresio 7, Storage Associati designed Deus Café, a bar-cum-restaurant within the Milan location of Deus Ex Machina, an Australian brand that sells custom-made motorcycles, bikes, and surfboards.
“When you design a restaurant or a bar, the most important thing is that the place has to be cozy,” Pasini says. “This doesn’t mean that you have to use warm colors and materials. Cozy is a wide term, with different shades. At Deus Café, for example, light completely embraces you, and people are surrounded by images that are soft and extremely recognizable. You feel at home.”
To decorate Deus Café, Pasini, Donati, and Ghidoni bought furniture from secondhand dealers all across Italy. “We started reworking old pieces to transform them into something that doesn’t look like a ready-made object but an actual contemporary design piece,” he says.
This approach is in line with Pasini’s own style. “I like fashion, but I don’t like to follow trends. At my house,” he says, with a touch of pride, “you will never find a famous, recognizable piece of a designer.”