The new building for the Fondazione Feltrinelli, designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, opened on December 2016 in Porta Nuova, confirming once more the relevance that this district is gaining for the city of Milan. The building is settled over a slot left vacant form the bombardments of the Second World War, and its concentration on the Viale Pasubio side of the area permitted to realize a wide public space at its base. Once completed, this new public surface will extend the pedestrian area of the adjacent boulevard, and will work as a connection between the Fondazione Feltrinelli and the remains of the ancient Mura Spagnole, the 16th century fortifications that defined the city’s boundaries. Being inserted in such a context, the architects aimed at creating a linear and clean building, where the constant repetition of the vertical and horizontal partitions creates a regular grid that blends together the steep roof with the façades, and that pays homage to the traditional Cascina rural buildings. Without denying its monumentality, the Fondazione’s new headquarter it’s a kind of exception in today’s architecture production in Milan, where world renowned architectural studios are more likely to be selected to mark the landscape of the city with new sensational buildings that can raise media’s attention.
A diagonal cut, following the orientation of the structure, separates the Fondazione from the new Microsoft offices that moved in a couple of months after the opening. Both companies destined the upper floors to the offices, allowing to host public spaces at the ground level. Fondazione Feltrinelli also saved the last floor, under the dramatic view of the glazed slope that tops the building, for a public reading room, where readers will have access to the document of the historical archives. More important than the architectural result, the program of public activities that Feltrinelli and Microsoft are providing to the neighborhood’s life, stretching from cultural to ludic, will constitute a diversified and not banal counterbalance to the commercial and touristic inclination of the Porta Nuova district.
Fondazione Prada Osservatorio | between art and architecture
Delfino Sisto Legnani e Marco Cappelletti. Courtesy Fondazione Prada
Not even a couple of years after opening the Milanese venue designed by OMA, Fondazione Prada keeps to invest in the cultural landscape of Milan, inaugurating just before the end of 2016 a new exhibition space dedicated to photography and visual languages. Placed above one of the most visited sites in Milan, the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery, this new venue called ‘Osservatorio’, offers to the public – thanks to generous floor-to-ceiling glazed openings – original and unusual views over the octagonal dome and arcades of the Gallery.
The project of renovation mixes the intention to restore the original look of the spaces, recovering the authentic wooden finishing of the floor, with the will to deliver a functional and versatile space, establishing a measured balance between refinement and frankness. Walls display a polished concrete finishing, and the ceilings are reinforced with exposed metal structures that dialogue with the iron frames supporting the arcade of the Gallery. Allowing the displayed artworks to face directly the impressive view of the dome, Fondazione Prada offers to the city a new space where architecture and art will benefit from each other’s presence.
Delfino Sisto Legnani e Marco Cappelletti. Courtesy Fondazione Prada
Citylife | how to place a long term bet on Milan
image courtesy StrutturaLeggera
The almost completed Citylife district is the next colossal project of transformation of the metropolitan area of Milan, after the construction of the Expo area – whose ultimate end-use is still under discussion, but that keeps to host big events and manifestations, demonstrating that its role can still be relevant for the city after the World Fair – and the renovation of the Porta Nuova and Isola district. Citylife project represents also the umpteenth proof that Milan keeps growing at a rate that is unparalleled by any other city in the country, and at levels that were not imaginable in Italy just ten years ago. Raised over a 255.000 sqm area formerly occupied by the city trade fair complex, the project started back in 2004, with the first design competition, and it is expected to be completed by 2018. The project is symbolized by its already famous business district – formed by the three towers designed by the world-renowned studios of Arata Isozaki & Associates, Zaha Hadid Architects and Studio Libeskind – and will also comprise a residential area, also designed by Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind, commercial activities, and what is planned to be the third main green park of Milan.
This project has obviously originated all kind of attentions, expectations and reactions from media, locals and critics. But behind the clamor, the realization of Citylife district rises many question for the urban planning of the city. Differently from the Expo area, located outside the city center and lacking in the ambition to become an integrated part of the city, this operations is also distant from the experience of the Porta Nuova and Isola renovation, where singular projects inserted themselves in an already constituted part of the urban fabric. Citylife is instead replacing an entire portion of the city, previously occupied by a functional ‘island’ like the trade fair complex. And it will do it by proposing the solution of a luxurious garden city, whose implementation has faced mixed fortunes across the decades, and where residential proposal – whether you like or not the bold aesthetic of Hadid and Libeskind housing projects – is clearly destined to high spending client. There is much expectations and a lot of variables in this project. We will soon know if Milan has won another important bet on its future.
The attention paid to contemporary African art and design production has seen a constantly growing rate in recent years. Festivals like Design Indaba and Cape Town Art Fair, both hosted in the South-African capital, keep fueling this interest, providing international exposure to the state-of-the-art of the African scenario. It was at the 2014 edition of Design Indaba that the project for the new Zeitz MoCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa), the first major museum dedicated to contemporary art in the continent, was officially revealed by Thomas Heatherwick, leader of Heatherwick Studio, and author of the design. The project recovers one of the historic landmark of the city, the heritage listed Silo building, set in the core of the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. Heatherwick Studio kindly shared with Art Super some pictures of the construction site that show the smart strategy behind the design. The intention is to preserve the iconic image of the building, a light intervention is made on the exterior – installing curved glazing panels inside the original partitions of the building, while the major efforts are concentrated on the interior, where a central open space is carved out from the concrete structure of the silos. Works are now in an advanced phase and the design of the exterior is almost complete. The museum is planned to open on the 22ndof September 2017. Zeitz MoCAA, favorably placed in one of the most touristic and frequented areas of the city of Cape Town, will thus play a fundamental role in supporting the visibility and preservation of contemporary African artworks.
Mapungubwe and Alexandra Interpretation Centers | Peter Rich
Mapungubwe Interpretation Center. Copyright by Obie Oberholzer
The South-African office PR Design, based in Johannesburg and led by architect Peter Rich, is well known for its life-span interest and efforts in the preservation of local heritage and identities. This issue is particularly stressed in two of its most famous architectures: the Alexandra Interpretation Center and the Mapungubwe Interpretation Center. In these works, Peter Rich manifested its care for the recovery of local history going beyond the simple aesthetic outcome. Support from local communities has been integrated in the early phases of design and realization processes, mixing these contributions with contemporary techniques and materials. The Alexandra project is settled in the township that has been Mandela’s first home in Johannesburg. Conceived as a bridge spanning over the street below, it creates two public spaces under the main suspended body, encouraging a spontaneous appropriation from the community. Local elders, custodian of the oral tradition, were consulted to define the themes at the base of the project. The Mapungubwe Interpretation Center, shortlisted in the Aga Khan Award, is placed in the Mapungubwe National Park. The center, articulated in a series of vaulted spaces, display to visitors the history of local ancient populations. Its organic design combines advanced engineering calculations, provided through the collaboration with MIT and Cambridge engineers, with the recovery of a 600 years old construction system, for which local groups of unskilled workers were trained and employed.
Alexandra Interpretation Center. Copyright by Iwan Baan
Education Africa | new forms of local architecture
The education, starting from pre-school, is recognized to be at the center of the process to overcome the inequalities of contemporary South African society. In later years, NPO organization like ‘Bauen fur orange farm’ and ‘Education Africa’ have realized several projects for School and Pre-school facilities, of which South Africa has an urgent need, in impoverished areas of the country. Both organizations work in collaboration with different European Universities, which organize courses where students are requested to pass several weeks on site, to physically build the structures. Local people are also trained and involved in the constructions, so that when courses end, they are able to complete the buildings, and achieved in the meanwhile the skills to do regular maintenance on the facilities, and possibly help themselves for future constructions. These experiences are producing new forms of local architecture in the territory, that mix traditional building rules with contemporary design. Most importantly, they create occasions for mutual learning and fuel a process of sustainable social development.
The Maxeville Office of Jean Prouvé | Galerie Patrick Seguin
Since its foundation in 1989, the Paris based Galerie Patrick Seguin has promoted a recovery of awareness, from the general public, about the work of the French designer Jean Prouvé, whose studies on prefabricated houses and shelters are still today, in the face of nowadays issues about refuges populations and emergency situations, as relevant as ever. As done for the recent past editions, the Miami/Basel Art fair has been chosen as one of the main stages for this initiative. This year the gallery displayed a fully restored structure called ‘the maxeville office’, a multipurpose building designed by Prouvé in the 1940s.
Raymond Jungles founded his landscape architecture firm Raymond Jungles, Inc. (RJI) in 1982, just after graduating in landscape architecture from the University of Florida in 1981. RJI realized many relevant projects, that redefined Miami’s urban landscape in the last years, working with several of the most important firm in todays’ architecture: from Frank Gehry in 2011 – for the rooftop garden of the New World Symphony campus – to more recent collaborations with Herzog & de Meuron – Jade Signature landscape project – and B.I.G., with the Grove at Grand Bay project. Through the display of a rich and lush vegetation, characterized by a variety of volumes, colors and textures, its work has been able to establish a dialogue with the strong personality of these buildings, while presenting design solutions that could recreate a balanced natural system at the micro-scale of the project.
In just a couple of years, the skyline of Miami is going to change dramatically. Thanks to the global economic recovery, a general increase in the development of high density districts can be observed in many cities in different continents, but what is currently happening in Miami may present some differences from other situations, and stands as an exception in a country like U.S. Moving from a mainly leisure city, to a more complex and cultural destination, thanks to events like the Miami/Basel art week and Design Miami, the city is attracting every year a greater and diversified public, driving the investments to focus not solely on high-rise residential buildings, but also on public spaces and cultural facilities. Frank Gehry inaugurated the New World Center in 2011, and not even two years later Oma started to work on the project for the Faena Forum, a cultural complex situated in central Miami Beach, that has just recently been completed. A lot of architecture’s big names are working on several projects for the city that are currently under construction, last of which will see the light no later than 2019: OMA, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, Renzo Piano, B.I.G, Fostner+Partners, just to name some. It is interesting to note how, for some of these designers, Miami will be the first experience in the United States, for that specific typology of building. 87 park will be the first large-size residential tower for Renzo Piano in the U.S, as it will be Park Grove residential complex for OMA.
May it be for the richer and complex cultural environment mentioned above, or for the great opportunity that the city still has to grow and develop, these new projects show often a bold design, that is more easy to find in the emerging realities of Middle and South East, than in a more stable context like the American one. What is for sure is that Miami is now facing great transformations, and will definitely be a hotspot destination in the next years, not only for leisure tourism.