Dispatches from the 2019 edition of Milan Architecture Week
As the EU member states prepared to cast their votes this past weekend, architects from Europe and abroad gathered in Milan to discuss the profession’s most pressing topics. Milano Arch Week, hosted by the Triennale Design Museum and its president Stefano Boeri, was made up of an engaging series of lectures, conversations, workshops, and itineraries. ‘My vision is to bring Triennale Milano back to its traditional roots as the type of place where differing points of view are considered,’ Boeri described of the event, ‘and controversial topics are discussed and explored through various artistic and cultural viewpoints.’
This year’s theme, ‘Architecture and the Anthropocene’, took its cue from Broken Nature, the blockbuster exhibition that opened at the Triennale in April. Curated by MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, Broken Nature investigates the irrevocably severed ties between the environment and humankind, inviting architects, researchers and designers to explore notions of restorative design. Many of Arch Week’s events extrapolated on these projects, featuring talks by a number of Broken Nature participants: design duo Formafantasma, who created Ore Streams, an investigation in the recycling of electronic waste; Curator of the Dutch pavilion Angela Rui; and American soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause, who devised The Great Animal Orchestra, an interactive deep dive into nature’s noises.
A number of architects were also invited to present their recent work, from research projects by up-and-coming studios to Pritzker-winning big guns, each chosen for their practice of sustainable design. Local firm Fosbury architects discussed their recent work, including Ice Shanties for Cryptocurrency miners, a series of micro-homes whose heat is generated by the mining of cryptocurrency, which is currently being shown at the Versailles Biennale. Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ presented recent developments into his Makoko Floating school project, which is now in its third iteration, discussing the need for adaptable architecture as coastal cities become increasingly prone to flooding.
One of the more interesting moments of the week proved to be the most pressing for the city of Milan. On Thursday and Friday mornings the Triennale hosted the public consultations for the regeneration projects of Scalo Farini and San Cristoforo, two former railway depots that will soon be transformed by OMA into what is being touted as Europe’s largest urban park. Led by architect Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli and local firm Laboratorio Permanente, the presentation described a masterplan that aims to mediate the city’s scorching summer temperatures and notoriously polluted environment by installing a massive green tract in the north and urban lake in the south. It’s an ambitious project, whose longterm undertaking rests precariously on the country’s volatile economy, but based on the vociferous local turn out, it proved that an environmental change has to start at home.
But the most prescient observation came from Pritzker prize winner Shigeru Ban, who spoke at length about his various disaster relief projects over the years, from temporary housing in Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami to the Christchurch cathedral, built after 2011’s devastating earthquake. He stated: ‘disasters are no longer natural, they are man-made. It’s not the earthquake that kills people, it’s the collapse of the building.’ A point of view that summed up the sentiment of the wide-ranging festival. §