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Swiss Centre in Italy marks anniversary

The Swiss Centre is considered part of Milan’s modern-day architectural heritage Keystone

The Swiss Centre in Milan is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a towering presence in the heart of the northern Italian city and the biggest complex of its kind representing Switzerland abroad.

For many years one of the two buildings was the tallest in Milan, and this week a series of events there is aimed at drawing attention to its stature as a centre of Swiss culture.

Designed by the Zurich architect Armin Meili as an avant-garde structure which looks as up-to-date today as it did in 1951, the complex was originally intended to be the headquarters of the “Swiss Club” – an organisation founded in 1883 by the Swiss community in Milan.

But Meili’s plans proved too costly for the society and its construction was mainly financed by the Confederation in Bern.

As well as a cultural centre, it also includes the offices of the Swiss consulate, the Swiss chamber of commerce in Italy, Swiss tourism and a Swiss school.

Impressive location

When Milan’s Swiss community was searching for a site for the complex, it could hardly have found a more impressive location. It is in the Piazza Cavour, a square named after Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, whose statue there recalls the key role he played in events leading up the 19th century unification of Italy.

Regarded as an integral part of Milan’s modern-day architectural heritage, the centre consists of the 20-storey “Torre” (tower) and a smaller building called the “Cassa bassa”.

To mark the anniversary, Swiss Week, officially inaugurated by foreign secretary Joseph Deiss, will include exhibitions, debates and the launch of the “Swiss Business Hub”, a project aimed at expanding trade links between Switzerland and Italy.

The week of celebrations ends on Saturday with an open day when Milan residents will be able to make a comprehensive tour of the complex.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR