Introduction by Simona Finessi and Luca Molinari: Juan Conde, Giacomo De Amicis, Matteo Fantoni, Francesco Fresa, Michele Rossi, Claudio Saverino, Claudio Silvestrin and Paolo Volpato, talk about their own personal take on Milan.

Milan is not only the city where they work, it is also the city that has seen some of them grow up and it is a city that has embraced others. Talking about it is perhaps more difficult for those who were born there, too fond of the city to be realistically objective, Milan is therefore portrayed from a personal point of view by eight guests who draw an architectural and cultural profile of the city.

Simona Finessi – Editor-In-Chief, Platform
Every issue of Platform has a rational scope for us, we try to envisage scenarios and illustrate them. The question under discussion here is an extremely current one. Milan is a hub where students meet, people from all corners of the world come for work, or Milanese who return after a period of work or study abroad. Its distinctive trait is that it is a welcoming and inclusive city, it knows how to make the most of external enrichments and how to express itself in a modern international style. We asked eight leading professionals in the design and architecture sector who are based in Milan for their input together with their choice of a symbolic place.

Luca Molinari – Editorial Director, Platform
I kick off by speaking in a location in Milan, the showroom Rimadesio, a place characterized by a strong relationship between exterior and interior, the city outside is bustling but at the same you are in a welcoming home environment. Milan is after all an introverted but hospitable city, its spaces are inward-looking. In reflection of this hospitality, in these delicate times, above all for Europe, there is a word which accompanies the topic: Welcome. A word with a strong and somewhat political meaning, it indicates looking to the future, it symbolizes the idea of trust and heralds a positive trend of welcoming, embracing new talents for the development and enrichment of a city like Milan. Milan is not afraid of the future, the future is already in the pipeline.

Luca Molinari: You are very young, you studied architecture at the Polytechnic, you have lived and worked abroad What led you to take the decision to settle here and what aspect of the city do you appreciate the most?

Juan Conde – Lombardini 22: When I was asked to give my contribution I immediately thought about when my Columbian friends ask me “ What is Milan like?”. Milan is not an easy city, it is small and inward looking but it is extremely strong, In order to really get to know Milan you have to walk a great deal, explore all the little streets off the beaten track. I come from Bogotà, a city with 10 million inhabitants and where going on foot is almost unheard of because everything is too big, too far.

I have always lived in big cities, after my home town, I also lived in New York, but I have to say I have found my personal dimension in Milan. One of my first work experiences was with the architectural studio Citterio, I liked going to work on foot, in the mornings I would observe this active and dynamic city and in the evenings I would admire its transformation.

LM: In short Milan is for you its Botanical Garden in Brera, a place that is indeed very closed and silent. Why have you chosen this place?

JC: The Botanical Garden in Brera is a magnificent, hidden oasis, a symbol of Milan’s almost defensive character towards its treasures.

I think it decribes my idea perfectly, it is a city that you must make your own step by step.

LM: The image you have chosen is a detail in Candoglia marble. Where did you take the photo? Is it part of the monument by Aldo Rossi or is it a feature from Duomo? You also added a note that reads: “every city has its own heart where its spirit has been left over time”.

Giacomo De Amicis – De Amicis Architetti: It is related to the Duomo. I have Milanese roots, I grew up in Milan and so I had some difficulties at the beginning when I was asked to talk about the city . It always seems much easier to capture significant aspects of a city when you visit it for the first time. So to answer the question I went out and about by scooter, retracing the places of my childhood. My Milan is very broad, when I was young I lived downtown in front of the Palazzo Delle Stelline, we rented that apartment and unfortunately the time came when we had to move out. I lived in other neighbourhoods, including surburban ones, I changed a number of studios in a number of areas in the city…

Having to look for the most significant features I wanted to delve a bit deeper into the history and I found a photograph of the south side of Duomo, in a part in which only the matrix is highlighted, focusing on the surface texture of the Candoglia marble. As I wrote my idea is that cities leave their spirit somewhere” and where better than the stones of its oldest and most important monument, built with a rare material which is only for the exclusive use of the Fabbrica del Duomo? Milan has the ability to evolve while been continuous, never repudiating its deep soul.

LM: Candoglia marble has an interesting history, it once belonged to the Archbishop of Milan and it could only be used for the Duomo of Milan, with the exception of the Monument to the Partisans by Aldo Rossi. I also remember that the cathedral was the first real gallery in Milan because the transept was once open and could be continuously crossed through, a cloth separated religious functions from a more public and daily use. In the image of marble is there a subtle enticement to slow down?

GDA: I like to think that slowing down and taking the time to look for this invisible communication among the stones is an attractive draw, especially today with the arrival of so many new young people.

LM: You returned to Milan after a long period with Foster, but you too are Milanese through and through…

Matteo Fantoni – Matteo Fantoni Studio: I am Milanese and I was lucky enough to have been born in via Manzoni, I remember going with my grandfather to take small pastries at Alemagna, I went to school with my sister in Via della Spiga, when they still sold chicken and buttons… … Before the 1980’s Milan was a very different city from the one we find today, the fashion ateliers had not arrived yet. Milan is unyielding, rigorous, a palce for professional growth, dynamic but never pretentious. When I think of a Milanese from the bygone days I think of my grandfather, who got up early in the morning, went to the office on foot, came back in the evening and at half part six had dinner.

In the city in the eighties, we would meet in bars, cell phones weren’t around in those days, we would meet in those few streets, not squares, because Milan is not a city of squares but of courts,- patrimony of our city and at the same time it was a city of housing for workers, manufacturing and finance.The industrious nature of the city has always been present and perhaps the reason why today it draws great interest is because there is an immense cosmpolitanism in its DNA. Projects like Biblioteca degli Alberi or delle Torri are modern day examples but if we think about Gardella, Albini, Soncini, Beretta, Giò Ponti. Since the 1950’s there has been a keen desire for vertical structures.

LM: As a contrast to this world of functional efficiency you have chosen to talk about the suburbs of Milan, a great resource for the city. The industrial working class has been the strength of the city. 20 years of building works given rise to a completely different city. Milan is a city that you can still cross on foot in a day and at the same time its metropolitan territory is much vaster.

MF: What is happening now in Milan is extremely important, an urban and social regeneration is taking place. There is an important plan to connect the different areas of the city.


During my lifetime I have seen Milan change its face a number of times, from the city of my childhood, to that of the 1980’s, to the city I found on my return from an experience abroad. It is a city that, while perserving its rigour, its courtyards, looks to the future and wants to keep on moving forward, just as it always has done.

LM: Francesco, you take us to the terrace of your studio, Piuarch, in the neighbourhood of Brera, from here we can see many symbols of the changes in the city.

Francesco Fresa – Studio Piuarch: Milan, unlike Rome, demands an active role. The city does not       outrightly boast its beauty like Rome does, it simply asks you to look for it in the places which identify it: courtyards. Courtyards have always been public places, the typical Milanese tenements with communal balconies were a way of living, exchanging and sharing.


As an image I have brought our rooftop which has been converted into a vegetable patch. We wanted to use the roof as a resource, the idea was to bring urban farming back into the city, an important feature of many other Italian cities. I often think of those wheat fields that could be seen in war time pictures.

LM: It is also an extremely contemporary issue, nowadays we are trying not to deplete land or valuable resources by using what we already have, as in this case, the roof. A change in position in order to understand the scale of the city.

FF: It is the city’s scale that makes it so active and inclusive. Thanks to its average metropolitan size it has the ability to rebuild an urban fabric that would otherwise be lost in a bigger metropolitan area. Cities like Milan, Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Brussels are going through great developments precisely because they are inclusive cities where the contributions of talents from different cultures have enhanced and enriched.

Today, Milan is a model and I hope we will see knock-on effects in the rest of Italy.

LM: Studio Park, a studio that has been fortunate in these years to work on a number of post-war buildings. Working on the Italian post war building patrimony means making historical buildings commodious and energy efficient while keeping an aesthetic harmonious balance .What projects are you most fond of?

Michele Rossi – Park Associati: The project that is most representative of the city, is the renovation of the Soncini brothers building in front of the Museo della Permanente, a project we were extremely fond of, that allowed us to work in some way with our Masters.

We like to conceive renovation projects as a sort of coproduction, we try to give a contemporary interpretation to the will of the designer, we like that the impression of the building continues in those who observe it before and after the works.

LM: What are the buildings in Milan you are most fond of, those you would like to reccomend?

MR: Post war buildings are the buildings I love the most, most certainly the building of Gio Ponti in Piazza Caiazzo – I lived there and I saw it’s development..

The post-war period was a fruitful period in terms of solutions.

LM: This heritage that needs to be structurally rethought out is an immense resource for many European cities, modern materials were not destined for a long life and this has extraordinary implications for creativity.

MR: Milan is a laboratory. The very same industrial spaces and courtyards today are transformed by new social scenarios that inhabit them, particularly for work. This creates, in my opinion,a fascinating seamlessness, typical of the moral culture of this city.

LM: Chinatown, the oldest Chinese community in Italy

Cludio Saverino – Vudafieri Saverino: I didn’t want to photograph any partciular architectural feature, I simply wanted to represent a real social situation. I remember a chat with a female friend from Rome who accused the Milanese of having a small town mentality, even though deep down I believe that it is a curious and enquiring city and certainly not a provincial one. Milan has always expressed its will to experiment and modernize, the risk is that it can lose some of its original footprints. My grandmother, who was Portaluppi’s tailor, would be forever telling me stories of a city which no longer existed.When we would look out of the window onto via Garigliano together, the Isola neighbourhood was showing the first stirrings of urban redevelopment with the skyscrapers in Porta Garibaldi.

She looked at me and said “You architects are ruining the city” and I was slightly hurt by that remark. She was born in 1907, she took her honeymoon in Monza by horse and carriage, and she would tell stories of when they used to have picnics in the fields around the Isola neighbourhood and would keep the wine cool in the water of the river. I was able to relive the city through her eyes and through her stories, a city in which water played an extraordinary role, being developed on a network of canals and a series of artificial networks which unfortunately have been almost forgotten.

LM: At the same time this city, where at times you could smell freshly cut grass from its fields, is the same city that then decided to change, to host the first Expo, to have the first power stations, to become the capital of innovation that went on to transform the country.

LM: Milan also has an extremely strong moral, ethical side to it, it has had some great influential voices, take for example Dario Fo, Cardinal Montini, Giovanni Testori…

Claudio Silvestrin: A poem by the Milanese poetess Alda Merini reads: “In the neurotic city streets, men run after each other, eating wach other”. Poets are courageous and know how to be frank.

Milan is a city which at times is repelling and stressful, it should be endured with great awarenes/responsibilitys and energy. The speed is overwhelming, at times it doesn’t allow you enough time to find your own rhythm.

LM: You have a wonderful story, that passes through influential design studios from Lissoni to Matteo Thun. You have brought us an image of the Pirelli Tower.

Paolo Volpato: It is one of the city’s projects I love the most. I remember this parallelism many years ago, it was 1983, I was in New York, I went up the Twin Towers, I thought I would have seen very small images of people from above, but I was blinded by fog.

From the Pirelli Tower I saw what Buzzati called the “hard working ants”. Milan is an industrious but not a frenetic city, it is dynamic. The image from the Pirelli Tower for me expresses all the desire to move in a vertical direction, a vertical direction that today more than ever before is a real advantage.

LM: Two wonderful images come to mind.

– A tale, “Ascolto il tuo cuore o città” by Savinio that explains the story of the first lift in Milan, in a 10-floor building, going up in the lift the noise of the city began to fade away and you could begin to hear the sound of the Gods who were feasting at the top”

– During the opening credits of the film “La notte” by Antonioni, while the lift is going down, you catch sight of a city that is still countryside. It was the beginning of the 1960’s. the Pirelli Tower had just been brought to completion and held the record as the highest building in Europe.

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