The sign of love

2007-2016
Isozaki Tower, Milan, Italy*

Her name is Kira, and a beautiful lass she is. It was love at first sight. I’ll never forget that day. We were in the lawns over there, by the old Milan convention centre. I watched her prance in, elegant, dreamily, it seemed to me. She looked around for a quiet corner.

I approached her, no sense in wasting time, put on my debonair smile and said, “I’m Jpeg, a pleasure. What’s your name?” A burst of laughter was all I got. “Jpeg! What kind of a name is that?” “It’s what the kid at the shelter called me. He’s a computer freak. What can I say? Go on, it’s not bad when you come to think of it. By the way, not a bad laugh you have either...” We’ve been together ever since. Time for introductions.

We’re both dogs, medium build, pure mongrel, strays and friendly. The street’s our home and world. We’re well liked in the neighbourhood. And, like everyone who prowls the streets, we’ve always got our ears to the ground. The shop-keeps, other dogs and even a fair-minded cat bring us up to speed on the latest doings in town.

Come to think of it, there’s been a lot news lately here in the Portello district. The area’s up for urban renewal and some real smart buildings have already gone up. They call the project City Life. Nice name. I’ve got a strong weakness for construction sites. Always have. Don’t really know where it comes from. I’ll sit for hours at a stretch watching a crew at work. Having an opposable thumb is a wonder in itself. You can do all sorts of things with it.

Guess it’s just envy... Of all the new City Life buildings, one in particular caught my eye. It’s the one designed by the Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki. A while back I overheard some of the site crew talking and realised that just laying the foundations for that skyscraper would be no mean feat. It needed a special kind of concrete: a mass concrete mix that was cast in one continuous pour.

Thanks to Mapei trucks. I heard a new noise, looked round and stopped worrying. A string of Mapei cement mixers were pulling up loaded with a new admixture devised specially for the job. Some days later I heard them talking about a night shift. The first pour would take 35 hours non-stop. The cement would keep flowing under the lights. It was going to be quite a show. Raw power packed with muscular efficiency. No time to waste. The set-up was perfect.

I told Kira this was going to be our night, just for us. I took her to the site, the moon and the stars were more than cooperative. I’d even taken along a couple of spare ribs ‘donated’ for the occasion by the butcher in the next street over. There we were, watching the cement being poured in with Mapei’s admixtures. That’s when I caught her eye. I asked Kira to marry me. She let out a yelp of joy and I started wagging my tail into a spin. Now you know why we think the world of the Isozaki Tower.

Tall, luminous, rising forever is the impression you get. Kira and I visit often, keeping out of the way so we don’t disturb anyone. We go there, though, to look down. We want to see the paw prints we left that night in the fresh cement by the Tower’s north corner. They’re a sign of our love. They’re still there.

* The Isozaki Tower was the first of the City Life skyscrapers, which now include those designed by Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind, to go up. Mapei has been a key supplier for the en-tire City Life project, from tower foundations to residential complexes. As the first, the Isozaki was a real showcase for the expertise and ambitions of Mapei. The company set up a mobile laboratory whose team of technicians worked day and night with the construction crews, providing innovative materials that made continuous, high-volume pouring of the concrete possible.

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