June 30 2014

Via Paolo Sarpi: The Milanese Chinatown

I came to Via Paolo Sarpi for the first time three years ago, when my friend, visiting from England, and I got lost on our way to see the Monumental Cemetery of Milan. We were walking for the longest time and at some point realized the environment had changed completely – from the store design, to its residents. “Isn’t it weird there are so many Chinese shops here?” was the question that I was asked the following moment, and to which, at that time, I had no answer.

Via Paolo Sarpi (Milan, Italy)

Back then I wasn’t as familiar with Milan and its particularities, or had any idea of the implications urban design had on social environments. I was completely unaware of all the hidden treasures the city had to offer from an urban planning perspective.

I had never wandered into a “Chinatown” before and was taken back and impressed by this new perspective.

Via Paolo Sarpi (Milan, Italy)

The second time I visited, was again by accident while walking; only this time I was aware of the issues and controversial problems that the Paolo Sarpi area was known for. It is also when I started connecting the dots and started viewing Milan as a city of different cities. The area is unique, as it is exclusively pedestrian and has an Italian urban design with Chinese branding.

If Via Padova is considered dangerous by the majority due to its noise and multicultural diversity, Paolo Sarpi is in contrast, a quiet area with relaxed residents. Every time I went, it happened to be during the weekend when the street was more or less empty. I was curious to see how it looked during a week day, so I set out with a friend to what was supposed to be “an experience of daily life in Chinatown.” After one hour searching for a parking place, I already reached my first conclusion: a parking spot may be something impossible to find. It was about 8PM when we finally managed to get out of the car and start walking. I was surprised that there was almost nobody on the streets. I couldn’t help comparing it with Via Padova at the same time of night, when the “fun” begins, its most peak hours of pedestrian traffic.

Via Paolo Sarpi, Milan, Italy

An issue for the Milanese Chinatown is that it’s a segregated area on the verge of gentrification. This can easily be seen by the new restaurants appearing and the desire to upgrade the area’s design.

Many articles have been written regarding the complexity of streets and how they can be determine social dimensions, space, ethnicity, race, economics, and politics. Regarding the space, the street is designed for pedestrians, with green spaces planted on the sides, benches and recreational areas along it. In comparison to other immigrant areas, the urban design benefits the surroundings.

Via Paolo Sarpi, Milan, Italy

These cultural areas deserve a place within the city, but the question remains: how can we design similar social areas into better urban spaces for the entire city’s use?

Credits: Images by Dan Andresan. Data linked to sources.

Alexandra Serbana

Because of her strong background in Urban Planning and Design, from her bachelor’s at “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, in Bucharest, Romania, Alexandra decided to pursue planning from the perspective of policy and decision-making. She is passionate about traveling and experimenting with new cities, and moved to Milan, Italy where she is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Urban Planning, Policy, and Design at Politecnico di Milano. The experience of working and living in the multicultural city of Milan has sparked her interest in the reaction of urban places to new real-estate developments, as well as conflict resolution for urban design projects that reorganize urban city life. She hopes to make an improvement on the way cities deal with physical urban changes and their effect on the quality of social and environmental life.

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014 at 9:15 am and is filed under Alexandra Serbana, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, Government/Politics, History/Preservation, Social/Demographics, Urban Planning and Design. 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.


2 Responses to “Via Paolo Sarpi: The Milanese Chinatown”

  1. Elisa Says:

    Melbourne has got a famous and vibrant Chinatown but the reality is that the Chinese community is an establish social group while in Milan is relatively new phenomena. While the city urban fabric is a recognise fact in Milan the social infrastructure is in a primitive status, the ‘colonisation’ of the space had just started, social planning for a multicultural city need appropriate planning policies.

  2. Alexandra Serbana Says:

    I agree on the fact that there is a need for appropriate planning policies especially in Milan that has several areas of spontaneous development of ‘colonisation’.Paolo Sarpi is actually one of the well-grounded ones with a very strong impact especially in the urban design of the area.

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