Milan’s Porta Nuova urban success story
Milan’s central Porta Nuova district is at the heart of the city’s urban development. A combination of good planning, international architecture and urban forestation has been key to its success – measured by the droves of locals, tourists and architecture fanatics alike who frequent the BAM public park, says Marco Sammicheli, Wallpaper* Milan editor
Milan is a ‘born-again-city’ – its rebirth celebrated by important international events such as Expo 2015 and the upcoming Winter Olympics of 2026 (Milan-Cortina D’Ampezzo). The great transformation of the city (recognised by our Best City Wallpaper* Design Award 2019) is however, not sudden or radical, but a complex development that started a good 20 years ago, when whole areas of the city were redesigned after industrial production began to uproot and move away.
These areas were not in the city’s hinterland, but were well inside the city itself. So, as opposed to other examples of experimental developments in Europe, such as London’s Canary Wharf or La Défense in Paris, Milan needed a design that took into consideration the memory of the past, the needs of the present, and that very Italian quality of ‘inertia’ towards the challenges of the future.
The area that best expresses this approach is Porta Nuova, a very central quarter of Milan nestled between train stations and historic neighbourhoods. This part of the city was renovated by COIMA and the Fondazione Riccardo Catella. With the collaboration of private investors and public institutions, they developed infrastructure and new building projects, involving some of the biggest names in international architecture today.
The buildings of Porta Nuova have become the landmarks that best represent the growth of the contemporary city of Milan. The area is home to the Bosco Verticale complex by Stefano Boeri as well as buildings by Cesar Pelli, Piuarch, Cino Zucchi, Kohn Pederson Fox, Michele De Lucchi and Mario Cucinella. It has quickly become popular with both the public and the media, and is visited by around 10 million people each year.
The Biblioteca degli Alberi (Library of Trees) is the most recent addition to the area. As well as BAM, a public park designed by the Dutch studio Inside Outside and Petra Blaisse, together with Simona and Franco Giorgetta. It covers approximately 10 hectares – comprising a botanical garden, many fully accessible services, and a rich programme of over 200 activities per year engaging people in fitness, food, music and art. A dozen circular forests each dedicated to a plant species and seven fields of aromatic herbs, aquatic plants and sweeping lawns sit side by side with a labyrinth and great flower beds of perennial plants designed by Piet Oudolf.
‘BAM is a sort of urban carpet,’ say Manfredi Catella, chairman of COIMA, and Kelly Russell Catella, managing director of the Fondazione Riccardo Catella. ‘It is a pedestrianised area that, with its gardens, ramps and landscapes, unites the new buildings with the surrounding city.’
Porta Nuova and BAM are Milanese destinations that prove you don’t need to spend money to spend quality time in the city. They show how urban forestation can create a new sense of community. And, trees truly have become the new Milanese ambassadors, as later this year Milan will host the World Forum on Urban Forests at Triennale di Milano in collaboration with FAO and Politecnico di Milano, running 21 – 22 November. §