At the end of the 19th century the city of Milan had about 200,000 inhabitants. The new master plan began the city’s horizontal expansion which from a small Lombard bastion will gradually transform into the Italian metropolis of greatest artistic ferment, where the Nordic winds, bearers of new influences, mix with Italian roots, giving life to the rise of industrial design, architecture, contemporary art and fashion.
In this period of great change between wars, socio-political shifts and technological discoveries, the Futurist movement was born, led by the artist Boccioni. In Milan Boccioni found fertile ground to grow and prosper.
Industrial design and architecture also develop in this multicultural environment driven by the great masters who will follow one after another over time: Ponti, Castiglioni, Sottsass, Magistretti, Nervi, Fornasetti, Albini, etc., all of them Milanese. With each of their works they contribute to building the foundations of Italian design which flourishes in present day more than ever.
After the Second World War, a growing desire for change made its way into the new women’s Europe. Young women are tired of wearing the used clothes of their mothers, ushering in the rising stars of “Made in Italy” fashion. Therefore Armani, Missoni, Ferré, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Miuccia Prada and Krizia changed the face of Italian style in the world and use Milan as their training and development center.
Finally, Expo 2015 led the world to see Milan from a new, unprecedented point of view: eco-sustainability. Now when we talk about Milan the color that comes to mind is always green.
Today the new expansion projects of the city no longer develop horizontally but vertically and hold, as their focal point, the relationship between the inhabitants (residents and workers) and the green spaces. Buildings are designed and planned to reduce their environmental impact in favor of greater comfort while infrastructure and services remain the fundamental element that unites this amalgam.
So if you are in Milan and you are a lover of design and architecture, here is a list of (unconventional) places that are worth visiting at least once in a lifetime.
Located in the heart of Milan, it strikes for its spectacularity and its order. Currently still open to the public, it consists of four large rooms where the walnut wood of the shelves and the crystal of the chandeliers are the perfect setting for the ancient documents kept inside.
Rotonda della Besana
Ancient Milanese oratory converted into a church in the eighteenth century, surrounded by a large circular portico punctuated by a colonnade open to the church and closed to the outside creating a place of perfect exile from the chaos of the city. Ideal for a break with a good book.
Central Station (1931)
Subject of an important restoration completed in 2010, Milan Central Station is one of those places where anyone who enters is captivated by the size and compositional rigor. A magnificent example of coexistence between Liberty, Art Déco and Italian rationalism. Secret tip: on platform 21 there is the waiting room of the Italian Royal family, unfortunately rarely open to the public.
Masterpiece of the Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi, the villa with its garden is redesigned following the Italian rationalist style typical of that time, while the interior is furnished in Art Deco style where the brightness of the rooms and its large volumes are the photograph of the ” careful design of the spaces and the high standards of living of the Milanese industrial bourgeoisie of the time.
City reference point for the purchase of historical and contemporary product design. The post-industrial location is characterized by a large central volume with side balconies to reproduce a contemporary theater where objects are positioned as if they were the protagonists of a museum exhibition frozen in time.
Bocconi University (2008)
The imposing stone-clad structure designed by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara in the heart of the Ticinese district is home to an important university campus. The austere and material aesthetics of the exterior contrast with the facades of the internal courtyards characterized by large windows arranged on different levels.
This museum complex, designed by the London architect David Chipperfield, was born from the desire to recover, and return to the public utility, a former industrial area in the Porta Genova neighborhood.
After the ticket office, at the end of the main staircase, you enter an ethereal space, invaded by the light that permeates the undulating opaque glass; this “cloud” serves as a sorting point for museum flows and contrasts with the geometric and regular volumes of the exhibition rooms.
At the same time monumental and sober, a former grain warehouse becomes the place where the Milanese designer Giorgio Armani tells his story. The Japanese architect Tadao Ando thus creates a solemn and perfect architectural frame for the story of the homonymous brand through its four levels.