In 1950, Alberto Pirelli, the president of the Pirelli Company, ordered that a skyscraper be built in the area where the corporation’s first factory was located in the 19th century. The project was developed by architect Gio Ponti, with the assistance of Pier Luigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso.
Construction of the tower began in 1956 when Italy was experiencing an economic boom. The tower was to be surrounded by low lying buildings on a pentagonal plot of land. Upon its completion in 1958, it became a symbol not only of Milan, but also of the national economic development. At 127 m (417 ft), it was the tallest building in Italy. The building was sold to the Lombardy region in 1978. It has been the region headquarters until the completion of the new Palazzo Lombardia in 2010, where the offices have been moved.
In the afternoon of 18 April 2002, a Rockwell Commander 112, an airplane with a single engine registered in Switzerland, hit the building. The aircraft was apparently scheduled to fly from Locarno to Milan. The plane was low on fuel and Linate Airport was preparing an emergency landing prior to the crash, but the pilot suddenly wandered off and flew right into the building. The pilot and two people inside the tower were killed in the accident.