March 21 2013

Old Dog, New Tricks: Urban Transformation in Milan

While we often think of cities according to their skylines, we overlook the fact that these are constantly changing in cities around the world. Because of cities’ organic nature, the essence of the city is thus manifested physically in the urban format. New transformations and new skylines are indicative of changing attitudes, and in many ways, reinvent the city.

Transformed Porta Garibaldi Entrance

Although Milan is not a “global city” or “command center” like New York, London, or Tokyo in Saskia Sassen’s The Global City (2001), it serves a similar function in the Italian context. The city’s economic and political power is represented in the new strong physical form, which will redefine the future impressions and memories of Milan. New engineering and modern design techniques are part of the new skyline, punctuated with world-class architectural style.

Two of these redeveloping urban areas in Milan are the new Porta Garibaldi area in the north end, and City Life in the west of town. Garibaldi serves as a regional transportation hub with the Garibaldi train station, and greets incoming travelers to new buildings with an impressive and refreshed appearance. The interior space of these buildings also serves as an elegant recreation space, encouraging business lunches and evening walks.

Transformed Porta Garibaldi Interior

The City Life construction is a multi-use project anchored by three high-rise towers with business, shopping, and residence accommodations. Powerhouse architects Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and Arata Isozaki will do more than just change the Milan skyline with this site; they will expand the city’s character and usher in a new generation of inspired thinkers and designers.

City Life Milan Hadid, Libeskind, Isozaki

It is difficult to qualitatively assess the effect of our ambient environment. We cannot directly assign quantitative values to the impact of size or style, and how these directly influence the products of pencil and paper. So we ask ourselves, if possible, how do we measure environmental determinism?

More simply, how does urban design influence you?

Credits: Photographs by Maxwell Vidaver. Images and data linked to sources.

Maxwell Vidaver

Maxwell Vidaver is a graduate student in Urban Planning, Policy, and Design at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, and also holds a B.A. in Geography from Binghamton University, where he focused on urban economic analysis. He is originally from Baltimore, Maryland, and developed an early passion for urban planning and environmental design as an avid cyclist, mechanic, and commuter. His planning interests include exploring alternative transportation options, maximizing energy efficiency in new urban projects, and improving access between city users and government. Max’s goals are to help promote smart design initiatives, and facilitate community-city collaboration in order to create more sustainable, as well as comfortable, urban environments.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013 at 9:26 am and is filed under Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Design, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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4 Responses to “Old Dog, New Tricks: Urban Transformation in Milan”

  1. Tal Says:

    It is indeed difficult (even almost impossible) to asses now the influence or the value of the design in the future. However it is easy to evaluate the quality of existing urban spaces we already know and like today.
    This to say that the new projects create entirely new entity and typology of huge spaces, but the question to be asked is what kind of “look” and “feel” do they create? and will we ever enjoy them like we enjoy an old city center or a long promenade..

  2. Maxwell Vidaver Says:

    Spoken like a true urbanist, Tal. How do you think this “look and feel” should be evaluated? Can we compare it with other projects, or should we create new social space studies to accompany the “new typology of space”? As for enjoying the old city center or a long promenade, it would appear to be a lost science. Perhaps a more fundamental, dense, and basic approach to city design is what is needed – and if so, what are the next steps to achieve this? I’d love to talk to you more about it :)

  3. Tal Says:

    Well, the question is not about creating new things, on the contrary it’s about identifying old qualities. As cities try to invent themselves anew, I would say that instead of static and rigid spaces, we need adaptable cities that can experience more than one solution. “Tricks”, as the title proposes, might be the key for that.

  4. Maxwell Vidaver Says:

    Well said Tal. I don’t think I could agree more!

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