A simple premise for a decidedly more complex goal: to make Milan attractive again, not only for future investors, but for new citizens, ready to live in a city suited to their needs and not necessarily bent to the financial market. This is where Laura Montedoro, associate professor of Urban Planning at the Polytechnic of Milano, begins her investigation, recounted page by page in “Una Scelta per Milano: scali ferroviari e trasformazione della città” (A Choice for Milan: Railway Yards and the Transformation of the City). A story in several voices of what wants to be not only a vision but a hope for the capital of Lombardy.
© Book by Laura Montedoro, “Una Scelta per Milano: scali ferroviari e trasformazione della città”
A simple premise for a decidedly more complex goal: to make Milan attractive again, not only for future investors, but for new citizens, ready to live in a city suited to their needs and not necessarily bent to the financial market¹. This is where Laura Montedoro, associate professor of Urban Planning at the Polytechnic of Milan² began her investigation.
So, transform yes, but how and where to start? The railway yards have represented for the Polytechnic’s urban research team, born in 2006, a new starting point and design development, which is not limited to existing structures but involves the whole city of Milan, in search of continuity and homogeneity between the various urban areas.
The decision to start designing the urban renewal of a city like Milan with its currently disused railway yards is symbolic, or rather an attempt to revitalize a transport system in a city that has made its fortune from speed, immediacy and communication. This choice also hides the much deeper desire to transform disused railway yards into new transport hubs or new urban places³, through designs that have in themselves the seed of long-term change, interpreted as the search for a vision that can offer a new city profile to all those who pass through and live there. A continuum between the individual and the urban dimension designed in its own image and likeness, in which the emphasis is placed on the quality of the space, aspiring to a new idea of the city.
The proposal is not to immediately find a solution that is ideal for the current situation in Milan, rather to seek for an alternative line, which is applicable in a systemic way, enhancing the individual elements without forgetting the context. Moving in this direction means making a city, recognizing in each element (in this case, in each station) its natural uniqueness in the whole City, giving priority to the habitability and potential relationships that each railway yards could host.
In this frame is supported the article by Paolo Mazzoleni⁴ – Gli spazi sociali della residenza come catalizzatori di urbanità (The social spaces of the residence as catalysts of urbanity) – according to which the design of spaces that respect social relations must be done by investing in elements that allow the individual to take advantage of these spaces, designed to acquire new forms and align with the progressive urban changes.
Spatial quality is one of the constant principles for the urban design of the railway yards, in which the relationship between green space and the public excels, demonstrating the interest of the designers in the individual as such, and consequently considering their freedom of movement in space as a primary need, not as a secondary element to be satisfied with endowments of practice.
The dialogue between urban and green elements is one of the keys to interpret the different projects developed for the individual railway yards, in which the dialogue does not stop at the balance proportion between architecture and urban greenery, but extends itself to the surrounding areas, including in the design purely residential areas, reinterpreted together with the concepts of social housing and “mixité”, implementing a circle of relationships alive and designed to be lasting, breaking down as much as possible (widespread) phenomena of social segregation (voluntary or not).
The seven projects⁵ analyzed in Una Scelta per Milano follow these guidelines, trying to interpret the existing urban elements, but paradoxically highlighting what is the great lack of the Lombard city: an overall vision that allows you to regulate systematically the planning of construction, perhaps for this very reason the railway yards are not presented according to a hierarchy of importance, but are treated equally, regardless of their geography⁶.
It is important to note the total extension of the surface area, which leads to other reflections, especially with regard to the population density it will be necessary to take into account the peculiarities of the different areas trying to maintain them, avoiding peaks of density extension, which would distort the face of the city.
We opted for demonstration projects⁷, which took into account the redistribution of the population but through a homogeneous change, although this may involve large volumes, as in the case of the railway yard Farini⁸, where the relationship between urban greenery and large buildings – including residential – is not distorted but enhanced by demonstrating the need for a pragmatic urban design⁹.
Laura Montedoro’s research practice demonstrates not only the need for the work she designed, but also the need for a change in thinking at the strategic level, involving different forces and setting aside once and for all the logic of land rents, to which the territories have been subordinate for decades, causing a progressive disconnection between construction and reality.
As already mentioned, the aim of Una Scelta per Milano is to propose an alternative way, which takes into account strategic territorial choices developed for a territory that is already rich in relations between structures and infrastructure in turn linked to a historical substratum of absolute importance, consequently it is necessary to direct the design practice to maximize the intrinsic potential of each individual area, in harmony with the community.
Translated into English by Marco Grattarola.
¹ Laura Montedoro, Ipotesi funzionali, modelli insediativi, idee di città, pp. 19, Una scelta per Milano, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2013.
² L. Montedoro, www.polimi.academia.edu, date of consultation 07/10/2018.
³ Mauro Mericco, Scelte strategiche e visioni per la città metropolitana-Quale strada diversa è percorribile?, pp. 37, Una scelta per Milano, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2013.
⁴ L. Montedoro, Gli spazi sociali della residenza come catalizzatori di urbanità, pp. 75, cit.
⁵ L. Montedoro, Un approccio sistemico. Progetti per i sette scali milanesi-La rappresentanza e la comparabilità, pp. 101, cit.
⁶ L. Montedoro, Un approccio sistemico. Progetti per i sette scali milanesi, pp. 102, cit.
⁷ L. Montedoro, Modelli insediativi, o dell’importanza del disegno urbano, pp. 24, cit.
⁸ L. Montedoro, Un approccio sistemico. Progetti per i sette scali milanesi – Note sul Metodo, pp. 102, cit.
⁹ Milano 7 scali: una risposta locale a un problema globale-Conversazione con E.Battisti, pp. 266, cit.