admin On luglio - 1 - 2015

by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi


The Architect and University Professor at Politecnico di Milano and Istituto Europeo di Design, Matteo Moscatelli, delivers an exceptional guide of Lombardy’s capital. His team of collaborators, young people who work as researchers, enriches the exploration of the city, since it coalesces a kaleidoscope of different perspectives about Milan.

In this Exclusive Interview he describes the making of this exceptional publication:

Why did you feel there was the urge to make another guide about Milan, what was still untold about the city?

The goal was to tell what happened above all in the last fifteen-twenty years. Considering Milan changed its appearance profoundly, we wanted to underline this transformation, which is still taking place. What differentiates us from other guides is first of all – in the selection – the strong attention to what is happening now, with the biggest part devoted to contemporary architecture. Whereas in the descriptions, the difference stands on one hand in trying to highlight, from the historical point of view the events that characterised the “life of the buildings” after their construction, and on the other in trying to analyse their main compositional aspects. When it was possible we tried to show what inspired them as for Grattacielo Pirelli.


You made a selection of 83 sites, betwixt landmarks and residential buildings, what was the criteria to choose what to include and what to exclude?

The moment of making choices is the one of the most important steps, when making a work of this kind. Particularly in this case, where we had to limit an overview of Milan to only 83 sites (they were 84, but in the end we couldn’t include the Prada Foundation, that was about to open to the public a few days after our publication). The only way is to establish a clear criteria, and to follow it, to give a coherent approach in the selection. In this guide, as explained in the introduction, we wanted to bring out examples of the changes of the skyline, of different kinds of re-qualifications, and of the renewed attention to the living and cultural spaces.

As concerns the re-qualification of old spaces don’t you think there has also been a very business-oriented approach that may be detrimental to cultural landmarks, for example when we think that the two movie theatres Cinema Mignon and Cinema Excelsior have been transformed into a high-end shopping mall?

It is always a shame when you lose these kinds of cultural sites, because – even for the tiniest ones – the city loses a piece of its identity. If we want to look on the bright side, when one cultural site may perish another may flourish, it is a part of the city’s metabolism and of the evolution of the needs of its citizens. Just in the same part of the city, a bank (Banca d’Italia) became a museum (Gallerie d’Italia), the Palazzo dell’Arengario was transformed in the Museo del Novecento, and the Castello Sforzesco itself is once again object of new interventions. This offer of cultural spaces is important not only in the city centre, but also in the industrial areas in the suburbs. Also the Great Milan is blooming with important re-qualification projects, such as Bi-La fabbrica del gioco e delle arti, an industrial building transformed into an educational and exhibition space, or the Bicocca Hangar, transformed in a new space for the contemporary art. I think Milan is currently one of the most interesting European examples of this process of restitution of existing spaces to the city.


In these regards how do you think this transformation influences gentrification in certain neighbourhoods?

The city has seen some good examples of re-qualification of sites in suburban areas also through the realisation of housing projects, that are innovative for many reasons. The fascinating aspect of the one in Via Cenni, for instance, is that it is surrounded by different kinds of experimentation: first of all for its social sustainability, thanks to the typology of inhabitants that are hosted, to the attention to the collective spaces, and to the research about flexibility, that allows to follow the potential evolution of a family through time. But what I truly appreciated in this case is also the experimentation about the innovative use of wooden materials, in particular the X-lam system employed vertically in one of the highest structures of this kind in Europe.

Since going vertical is changing Milan’s appearance how has the skyline evolved through the years?

In particular when you can observe Milan from far away, when you can see the city centre in its wholeness, you can really appreciate how deeply the skyline of Milan has changed, and how in the course of these last years its historical high buildings, starting from Grattacielo Pirelli and Torre Velasca, have been surrounded by a series of new vertical structures, both for residential and office uses. Approaching the city, we can understand that the interest of these new constructions is heterogeneous: sometimes they are representative of the history of the place, sometimes of a more general and not just local research of themes, sometimes even the “signature” of their author.

How important has the contribution of international architects, such as Zaha Hadid, helped give a more cosmopolitan flair to Milan?

This triggered a strong criticism that saw a sort of “colonisation” of foreign architects was occurring, and actually in these last years the city saw the realisation of many projects of this kind. However what matters isn’t whether the architect is from Milan, from Italy or from abroad, but how the building is put in relationship with the place. Certainly a project that is only representing the “signature” of the architect contributes to feed the trend to the homogenisation of the cities that takes a lot away, from their identity, instead of adding.


Milan in the year 2015: me must mention Expo, which is included in your guide…

The guide includes a description of the Masterplan and of the Italian Pavilion, the only projects (with not many others) that will survive after the event, because we wanted our indications to be useful also after the conclusion of the Universal Exposition. While we were finishing the work about Milan, I had the opportunity of making a new research focusing completely on Expo (Archibook Expo 2015), that I consider complementary to this one. Expo is an important opportunity for the city, even if with some contradictions in the interpretation of the theme. From the architectural point of view, the pavilions I appreciated the most are those experimenting with construction (such as Chile, Japan, United Arab Emirates). The Italian Pavilion is characterised by a very immediate image, the idea of imitation of nature that we find in many other pavilions. The most interesting element is probably the innovative material employed, the photocatalytic concrete used for the facades.

Where will the guide be distributed?

In most of the bookshops in Milan, like Hoepli, Feltrinelli and Mondadori. You may also order it directly on the website: especially if you want the English version, as opposed to the Italian one, which is available online as well. There is also an App for smartphones, which has extra content than the paper version, therefore there are more pictures and drawings about each site, and an interactive map.



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