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Milan’s Railyards: interview with Giorgio Goggi

Giorgio Goggi was interviewed as part of a discussion between three architects on the theme of the Milan’s railway yards.
Giorgio Goggi graduated in Architecture at the Polytechnic of Milano in 1970, with 100/100 cum laude. Member of the Order of Architects of Milan, since 1972 he has been working as a freelancer with his own studio in Milan. Consultant to the Minister of Transport for the study of problems relating to individual and mass transport, 1984. Coordinator of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Ministry for Urban Area Problems, from 1987 to 1989. Member of the Valtellina Scientific Commission of the Lombardy Region 1988-1992. From 1991 to 2010, Vice-President of the Traffic Commission established by the ACI of Milan. Since 1994 he has been a Ordinary Member of AIIT, the Italian Association for Traffic and Transport Engineering. Member of the Administrative Commission of the Municipal Transport Company (ATM) 1997-98. From 1998 to June 2006 he was Councilor for Transport, Traffic and Mobility of the Municipality of Milan, from 1999 to June 2006 Councilor for Advertising with delegation.
In addition to his professional activities, he received multiple academic assignments and published several writings.
Giorgio Goggi believes that “architectural culture must take into account the city, the whole built environment and not just the buildings”; this is the key to analyzing the theme of the Milan’s railway yards.

1 – What are the railway yards for you and what opportunities do you think these can bring to the city of Milan?

The railway yards are a huge area available within Milan because they have lost their function of goods management. They are an area that must serve the urban development strategy, so before deciding what to do with the Milan’s railway yards, it would be necessary to decide what the Milan development strategy is.
Seeing the railway yards only as an area available for construction, therefore intended for residential, tertiary, or in any case for undifferentiated destinations, seems to me reductive compared to the relevance of the strategic problem.

Cities are built on a very solid hardware, made up of functions and transport networks, so the city builds itself by reorganizing the transport networks and arranging functions inside. For example, in the 1980s, when the construction of the railway link began, Milan decided to include some important functions around it, such as the University in Bovisa or the Business Center in Garibaldi-Repubblica.
In the “Director Document”, which launched the project, the city’s strategy was decided even before the decision to build was made, i.e. it was preferred to build important functions for the city first rather than building private constructions.
This is because the urban area of Milan is not made up of the city of Milan alone, it is a rather large set of settlements, which also expands beyond the Metropolitan City.

The urban area works because it is not only made up of Milan, but also by a series of municipalities that are autonomous. If we want this urban area to continue to function, it must have all the accessibility conditions of a large city.
For example, London and Paris, which were mainly based on subways, started to build railway links to serve the entire urban system. Milan, even if it is less compact, has already built a first railway link, but for its perfect functioning we should build networks that allow everyone to travel without using a car.

Therefore, it is useless to set up area B when we have 500,000 cars entering Milan and only 15,000 interchange parking places.

The first thing to do when there are large free areas in the city is to understand which development strategy should be applied and whether there is a need to locate large public services.
In developed cities the major functions are placed in the nodes of the transport network, possibly in the railway nodes. Paris, for example, has recently moved the entire judicial citadel over a station.

We had a great opportunity, the railway link and the stopover areas on its track, for example Farini.
From my point of view the strategy being pursued now in Milan is wrong. In fact, inserting the functions in peripheral places (Città della Salute or the new University headquarters at the Expo), which despite being close to the stations are still too far from them, rather than using areas exactly above the railway links such as the area of the Macello or Farini, generates an underdeveloped city.

We cannot decide the functions based on real estate opportunities; we must first propose a development strategy.
The second Milan railway link was designed to complement the first. With this, starting from the 500 stations in Lombardy, it would have been possible to arrive directly in the center of Milan by train. An Agreement Protocol was stipulated, which provided that Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian State Railways) would use the areas to build the second link, that the proceeds from the urbanization would be used for the construction of the infrastructure and that the operation would be supplemented by other types of financing.
So, in fact, nothing was taken away from Ferrovie dello Stato, they would have exchanged railway installations for new railway installations. This would have changed the face of Milan and Lombardy. Unfortunately, the former mayor Moratti decided to cancel the second railway link and also slowed down the construction of the Metro 4, which otherwise could have been ready for the Expo.

There is a lack of vision in our administrators regarding the development of cities, they do not realize how a city should be built, they do not realize that the city of Milan includes a wider system of settlements.
In addition, setting up the Metropolitan City to eliminate the conflicts between the Municipality and the Province was a mistake, conflicts arose, today the former province no longer has a voice.

2 – What is your design vision for these urban spaces?

I think that the major public services (universities, hospitals, public offices) must be built in proximity of the stations so that they are accessible to everyone from all over the urban area and not only from Milan.
This would take up part of the available space, but obviously not all of it. In the rest of the railway yards it is necessary to find the right balance of functions, including residential ones; I would prefer the green. In the Ferrovie dello Stato’s proposal there are green spaces all over the place, however I would take a large railway yard and convert it completely into green, planning a new urban park for the city.

Then there is the problem of social housing, in Milan until a few years ago there were 30,000 unsuccessful housing applications and now they are probably even more because of immigration. We are witnessing a continuous phenomenon of abusive housing occupation.
Law 167 of 1962 obliges to find areas destined to economic and social housing for 40% of the needs, however the P.G.T. of Milan has never applied this law.
Used to be you could expropriate at an agricultural price thanks to Law 865 which responded to an emergency situation, to solve the dramatic problem of the house in the ’60s. In the 1980s, the problem was solved, but has now come back. Today it is necessary to expropriate at market price, but today the municipalities are owners of large spaces.
For example, Milan has 4 million unused square meters, including the railway yards, so it could build on these areas without having to expropriate.

Then you can think of involving private capital through some mechanisms, once you used cooperatives that received interest rate subsidies, today public funding could be given to those who build public housing.
We must provide immigrants with housing and work, we must address the issue regardless of everyone’s political positions, otherwise it will become socially dangerous.
The Administration has given Ferrovie dello Stato the burden of realizing economic and social housing, but the real social housing concerns only 3% of the total, the remaining part is destined for subsidized housing and a large part for medium-high or luxury housing, that will most likely remain unsold as CityLife and Santa Giulia.

It is necessary to break away some mechanisms of international finance, such as that of Ferrovie dello Stato, which to finance itself sells land to real estate companies that have many financial resources to use. Regardless of whether you manage to sell the apartments or not, they still earn money.
Ferrovie dello Stato has undergone a corporate change, so it no longer moves like a society that must serve the public interest and citizens, but like a private company that looks after its own financial interests.

With a view to enhancing public transport, “Ferrovie dello Stato” should convert disused railway yards near peripheral stations and throughout the region into interchange car parks, giving the possibility to use the trains to more people, and not only to those who are at a pedestrian distance from the station, but instead it asks the municipalities to build to obtain financial benefits.
Citizens cannot be expected to use rail transport when there are, if all goes well, and only in exceptional cases, one hundred parking spaces at stations, if we consider the fact that a train carries at least one thousand people.
Therefore, if you do not live at a pedestrian distance from the station you do not have the possibility to use the service, also because in small towns the bus frequency is 20/30 minutes and there are not even large bicycle depots at the station.
If FS’s aim were to transport its citizens, it would encourage the use of its own means of transportation in any way.

The government should not allow this attitude, it should ensure adequate supervision, protecting citizens and controlling the Ferrovie dello Stato, as it should have done with Autostrade per l’Italia s.p.a (organization that manages the Italian motorway network n.d.r.).

3 – What do you think of the FS’s approach in managing the redevelopment of the former railway yards?

Purely real estate.

4 – How would you allow milanese tradition and modernity to dialogue with these spaces?

In my opinion, modernity and tradition, if they work well, find their own spaces, perhaps not necessarily in the railway yards.
We need architects who have the culture of the city, in the case of Milan we called “archistars” who do not have the culture of this city, who create architectures that fit in their cities. At Porta Garibaldi, the architect Cesar Pelli designed the Unicredit Tower, his architecture in Los Angeles is perfectly integrated, but the episode of Milan is out of place, despite being among the best.
The Pirelli skyscraper, on the other hand, despite being a modern architecture, is also Milanese. So, tradition can also be a modern tradition.

Looking for the high-sounding name, to get more funding from banks and reach money-seeking people interested in buying, is a mechanism that in the long run does not work, while the sedimented culture of Milanese architects is completely overlooked because they are not “famous” enough.

Having said that, there is “archistar” and “archistar”, for example Renzo Piano’s project for CityLife was very nice, he understood everything about Milan.
Not that I absolutely like Renzo Piano, but that project worked perfectly.
It takes more culture; I do not see in young architects and urban planners that level of culture that was inherent in architects with whom I confronted and learned from in my youth.

5 – What do you think of the great urban transformations (Porta Garibaldi, CityLife, Expo, etc..) that have characterized Milan in recent years?

They seem to me to be advertising works, in the sense that Milan has become an important place in the world, especially after Expo. If you look at television commercials today, you realize that many are shot in Milan. The number of tourists has also grown a lot since Expo, because these interventions also played an advertising role.
People come to visit Milan and then go to see Piazza Gae Aulenti, architecture they could see in Boston, or in Los Angeles rather than in other cities, and so neglecting the great examples of Milanese architecture.
However, this site is always full of people, because these urban transformations respond to a new desire expressed by people and have a function similar to that of advertising.

I would like people attracted to these architectures to realize that Milan is all designed, in fact there is no city in the world designed as Milan is, even in ordinary neighborhood.
Consequently, I welcome the fact that tourism has increased, but I hope someone notices what the real Milanese architecture is and returns to building in that way.

6 – What other transformation do you imagine for the Milan of the future?

All developed cities make strategic plans that reach 2050, in Italy there are absolutely no plans of this type or such visions.
Above all, I imagine urban transformations that take note of the true dimension of the Milanese urban area, which bring the city to function well as the main cities in the world, with the possibility of functioning even better, given its structure.

Attention must be paid to the location of the functions, as I said before, for example, the regional user functions that already exist in Milan should be placed on the train stations. We must establish a hierarchy between the settlements, obviously respecting the functions of the Milanese hinterland, which must have its own, as it already has.

It is necessary to develop a lay approach to mobility systems, ideology must be banned and peace must be made with mobility, balancing the ecology of the city with the real needs of those who move.
In this regard, interchange parking spaces should be set up both inside and outside the city, without blaming those who use the car but promoting its sensible use.
Moreover, residents cannot be allowed to park for free on the street, because the public area is not a private parking, this service must have a cost, as in most cities in the world and also in Italy.
The center of Milan should be functionally pedestrianized, which does not mean blocking the cars, but it means letting the cars enter on well-defined itineraries that arrive in underground car parks.
The subway is a strong network that can support such a system.

I would immediately open the canals; without making the useless five tanks, but reopening the entire canal system, making navigable an infrastructure of 150 km that expands throughout Lombardy. This could provide much higher revenues than the 250 million euros needed for the operation, but above all it will build the great landscape of the cities of the future.

Finally, in a more pedestrianized city, with open canals and efficient mobility, we must think of the green, but without fundamentalism instead finding the right space for this need too.

7 – When, how and why did you decide that Architecture would be your way?

I decided what my street would be in Piazza Leonardo Da Vinci, in front of the Polytechnic, where I had gone to enroll with a friend. We had taken the engineering and architecture study plan because we were undecided, reading the exam programs I decided to enroll in Architecture and my friend chose Engineering. I was already sure I was going to do the Polytechnic; I chose the architectural discipline and I am very happy to have done it.

8 – What is your definition of Architecture today?

Architectural culture must take into account the city, the whole built environment and not just the buildings. I have never been in favor of differentiating between Architecture and Urbanism, I have always thought that the experience of architecture was also useful to urban planners and vice versa. Architecture must be interested in the city, with a deep awareness of artistic, architectural, urban and political history. In addition, Architecture must not be self-referential, so you have to build something that is not just a beautiful object as such, but that builds the city, the neighborhood or the house where people live well.

9 – What advice would you like to give to future architects?

Read! Not only Architecture but also novels, people don’t read anymore but you have to read a lot. If you want to acquire enough culture, reading a book a month is not enough, you have to read ten.

Translated into English by Marco Grattarola.

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Marco Grattarola AdministratorKeymaster
He graduated in Architecture Sciences at the Polytechnic School of Genoa with a thesis on “Active Architecture”. He did two internships, in an art gallery and in an architecture studio. He currently attends the Master at the Polytechnic of Milan. His interests range from music to drawing, in which he experiments with curiosity and passion.
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