All About Italy (USA) - - Editorial - Elisa Rodi

The Mi­lan of 50 years ago was gray, cold and in­dus­trial. Gray for the build­ings, cold for the wel­come, and in­dus­trial in the men­tal­ity. Cov­ered with that blan­ket of fog, it was the me­trop­o­lis of rigid­ity in for­mal clothes. The fog has not dis­ap­peared, and its soul has main­tained its dis­tinc­tive signs, but what is cer­tain is that some­thing has hap­pened in­side Mi­lan: noth­ing has been taken away from the city, but if any­thing added, some­times up­set­ting its forms and caus­ing its con­trasts to be­come rea­sons for pride and greater fas­ci­na­tion. If on one side the fu­tur­is­tic sky­scrapers have con­tin­ued to rise to­ward the sky, on the other hand, the lo­cals have re­dis­cov­ered the neigh­bor­hoods, re­pop­u­lat­ing the streets and re­qual­i­fy­ing the un­used spa­ces.

It is a Mi­lan that races to­ward the fu­ture and slows down to re­cover the past, cre­at­ing the har­mony of a city that to­day finds it­self the sec­ond most-loved in Europe, for the vi­vac­ity and the pos­i­tiv­ity that have char­ac­ter­ized its lat­est evo­lu­tion. If the start­ing point of a voy­age in its

Dis­creetly grown up un­der the shadow of the Madon­nina, Mi­lan to­day is the city you didn’t ex­pect, but were al­ways wait­ing for. Re­qual­i­fi­ca­tion and in no­va­tion for a new and sus­tain able beauty.

in­te­rior is still Pi­azza del Duomo, flanked by the Gal­le­ria Vit­to­rio Emanuele II, the Royal Palace and the Mu­seum of the 20th Cen­tury, its con­tin­u­a­tion is along its branches, where one en­coun­ters the el­e­gance of the Teatro della Scala, the his­tory of the Castello Sforzesco, the cre­ative vi­vac­ity of the Br­era and its paint­ing gallery, and the Ro­man ves­tiges of the col­umns of San Lorenzo. There is beauty, cul­ture and move­ment in new ar­chi­tec­ture of Mi­lan, in which an­cient and mod­ern art, graphic nov­els and pho­tog­ra­phy, cin­ema and sport all con­verge. But the beauty of Mi­lan is that in its new ex­pres­sion it no longer has a “cen­ter,” or, at least not a sin­gle one. Each neigh­bor­hood has be­come a heart of the city around which un­ravel build­ings and streets with an in­de­pen­dent per­son­al­ity. Mark­ing out the ge­om­e­try of glamour is the “rec­tan­gle of fash­ion,” with its bou­tiques and de­signer show­rooms in­side the con­fines of via Mon­te­napoleone, via Man­zoni, via della Spiga and corso Venezia: the fron­tiers of an area in which shop­ping tourism finds its nat­u­ral ex­pres­sion.

It is a Mi­lan that races to­ward the fu­ture and slows down to re­cover the past, cre­at­ing the har­mony of a city that to­day finds it­self the sec­ond most-loved in Europe.

More dis­creet, and far from the world of fash­ion, there is a more re­served Mi­lan that de­serves greater at­ten­tion for its un­will­ing­ness to re­veal it­self at the view. It is the city of in­ti­mate views, fas­ci­nat­ing de­tails and dis­creet court­yards hidden in­side the build­ings that Mi­lan has seen erected. Mi­lan’s ma­tu­rity is nour­ished by ideas, con­tin­u­ous in­no­va­tion and, ob­vi­ously, investment. The in­hab­i­tants have cho­sen to be­lieve, to wager even more, to in­vest in chang­ing its se­ri­ous pro­file and dress­ing it with that light­ness that is not su­per­fi­cial but be­witch­ing. De­sign­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural “new col­lec­tion” of Mi­lan have been, not by ac­ci­dent, the most im­por­tant ar­chi­tects, the so-called “archis­tars,” who with their projects have con­trib­uted in mak­ing the Lom­bard cap­i­tal not a sim­ple me­trop­o­lis but a mul­ti­fac­eted soul never taken for granted, be­cause it is too used to stu­pe­fy­ing.


The Straight, the Bent and the Curved: they might be from a film by Ser­gio Leone, but in­stead are the fruits of the stu­dios of Daniel Libe­skind, Zaha Ha­did and Arata Isozaki. These three ar­chi­tects have de­signed the sky­scrapers of Citylife, the new

build­ing com­plex that fea­tures the three soar­ing fu­tur­is­tic tow­ers that have al­ready at­tracted the investment of large in­sur­ance groups, with Al­lianz who will trans­fer their em­ploy­ees to the Isosaki Tower, and Gen­er­ali who is wait­ing for the keys to the sky­scraper de­signed by Zaha Ha­did to trans­fer, prob­a­bly in 2018, an­other 3000 work­ers. We still don’t know who will oc­cupy the third tower, but in the mean­time the Citylife Shop­ping Dis­trict project goes ahead, de­signed by Sonae Sierra, an in­ter­na­tional spe­cial­ist in shop­ping cen­ters, and which will change the face of an en­tire zone of the city, con­sti­tut­ing a sec­ond pole of shop­ping, du­pli­cat­ing the lux­ury streets of the cen­ter. And ob­vi­ously the con­struc­tion will not be sim­ply ver­ti­cal, but also hor­i­zon­tal, be­cause on the street level a sec­ond city will be born, made up of pedes­trian ar­eas, gar­dens and ur­ban re­qual­i­fi­ca­tion. Citylife pre­pares to be an­other cen­ter of Mi­lan, prob­a­bly the most com­mer­cial one, but cer­tainly among the most vi­brant in defin­ing the sky­line.

De­sign­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural “new col­lec­tion” of Mi­lan have been the so-called “archi-stars,” who with their projects have con­trib­uted in mak­ing the Lom­bard cap­i­tal a mul­ti­fac­eted soul never taken for granted


Trans­parence and in­no­va­tion flow in the new Mi­lan be­tween Porta Volta and Pi­azza Gae Au­lenti. The Fon­dazione Gian­gia­como Feltrinell­i and Mi­crosoft have found new head­quar­ters there in a build­ing signed by the fa­mous Swiss stu­dio Her­zog&de Meu­ron, or to be ex­act, two build­ings, one af­ter the other be­tween viale Pa­subio and viale Crispi, five sto­ries tall (with two base­ment floors) in the shape of a hut re­call­ing Gothic cathe­drals with their fa­cades en­tirely cov­ered with glass and also a pub­lic pedes­trian zone with a dou­ble file of trees and a bike path.

The ex­te­rior de­sign of the com­plex is im­me­di­ately rec­og­niz­able in the ur­ban Mi­lanese land­scape: vis­i­bil­ity, flex­i­bil­ity, en­ergy, dy­namism and in­no­va­tion de­lin­eate the pro­file of the Mi­lan that at­tract busi­ness in­vest­ments and that thanks to this grows and of­fers it­self as a can­di­date as the work­ing cap­i­tal of Italy. It is a corner of Mi­lan that re­turns to the in­hab­i­tants af­ter 70 years of aban­don and that to­day, with the glass pyra­mid ac­cen­tu­ates its con­cept of open­ness and its de­cided up­surge on the in­ter­na­tional level.


It’s work­ing to be­come the neigh­bor­hood of a new de­sign pole: we are talk­ing about the Isola dis­trict, which like so many ar­eas of Mi­lan, has not pulled back from putting it­self into dis­cus­sion. There, be­hind Pi­azza Gae Au­lenti and the Uni­credit Tower, a new ex­pres­sion of ar­chi­tec­ture has taken form and you only have to glance around for a mo­ment to un­der­stand the sym­bol of the re­birth of this neigh­bor­hood. Some three years ago, Ste­fano Bo­eri gave the city the Ver­ti­cal For­est, the build­ing that would soon win with­out too much dif­fi­culty the ti­tle of the world’s most beau­ti­ful sky­scraper. A for­est of around 1000 trees in the mid­dle of Mi­lan de­vel­oped ver­ti­cally rather than on the sur­face, and that takes the form of two sky­scrapers of 111 and 78 me­ters (364 and 256 feet). In this burst of height there is a new idea of the sky­scraper and the re­sponse to the ne­ces­sity of mak­ing the city greener while at the same time sus­tain­ing an ever­denser ur­ban pop­u­la­tion. The Ver­ti­cal For­est is the first ex­am­ple in the world of a tower that en­riches its host city with plant and an­i­mal bio­di­ver­sity, and a way to con­firm that Mi­lan is no longer a sim­ple pour­ing of ce­ment.


His­tory teaches us that all great cities rise where there is wa­ter. So Mi­lan has de­cided to reap­pro­pri­ate a mir­ror of wa­ter to re­flect its beauty. The new Darsena project re­sponds to both of these ne­ces­si­ties and thereby makes pretty much every­one happy. In far-away times the Darsena was the junc­tion of the two prin­ci­pal canals, and for that rea­son rep­re­sented the port of one of the most im­por­tant trans­porta­tion routes for river com­merce. To­day, that dirty and for­got­ten basin that crowned the two canals with in­famy seems like a dis­tant mem­ory. It needed some 20 mil­lion eu­ros and an elite squadron of ar­chi­tects (Edoardo Guaz­zoni, Paolo Riz­zatto, San­dro Rossi and Stu­dio Bodin&as­so­ciés) to give back the Darsena to a splen­dor that it per­haps never even knew be­fore. The re­turn of the wa­ter, af­ter years of forced drainage, was the essen­tial con­di­tion on which the project was founded: mak­ing it so that the Darsena once again evoked the con­nec­tion with the el­e­ment of wa­ter, in or­der to con­tinue to sug­gest the theme of a pos­si­ble re­or­ga­ni­za­tion, of a gen­eral re­design ex­tended to the en­tire city and its ter­ri­tory.


It was orig­i­nally a dis­tillery, but to­day is a cul­tural space of 19,000 square me­ters (204,500 square feet) de­signed by the Dutch ar­chi­tec­tural stu­dio of Oma un­der the guide of Rem Kool­has. Seven pre­ex­ist­ing build­ings were re­con­verted and three new ones added to cre­ate a unique ex­hi­bi­tion space that goes be­yond di­dac­tic art to wel­come in­spi­ra­tion, non-ego­cen­tric emo­tion and, if needed, sober irony. The re­nais­sance of the south­ern pe­riph­ery of Mi­lan finds its foun­da­tion in the Fon­dazione: from the glo­ri­ous ci­ti­zen workspace com­posed of fac­to­ries, tracks and wa­ter tow­ers, a cul­ture of sharing is born with art as a col­lec­tive start­ing point for a fu­ture that takes its struc­ture from the solid ar­chi­tec­ture of the past. The Fon­dazione Prada is in some ways the ex­ten­sion of a new con­cept of Mi­lan: not im­pos­ing it­self on the pre­ex­is­tent but giv­ing it new value with the in­stru­ments of con­tem­po­rary lan­guage. The in­dus­trial struc­tures and ma­te­ri­als get a facelift, while the only con­ces­sion to lux­ury ap­pears in the cov­er­ing of the house-tower called the “Haunted House” and whose ex­te­rior walls are cov­ered with 24 carat gold leaf. Till, this flicker of ec­cen­tric­ity, as stressed by Kool­has, “wants only to be a sig­nal of the im­por­tance of this in­ter­ven­tion with re­gards to the city, of how much art and cul­ture can give added value to what was pre­ciously de­graded, trans­form­ing what was poor into wealth.” And every­thing makes one think that this has in­deed hap­pened.

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