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Reinventing Industrial Milan: Old Factories Brought Back...

Reinventing Industrial Milan: Old Factories Brought Back to Life in a Cultural Context

Milan is a city with a strong industrial background that is an economically influential business, financial, and design center in Europe and beyond. By the late 12th century, Milan was one of Italy’s most wealthy and industrious hubs due to its large production of armour and wool that increased the Lombary region’s wealth. During the Renaissance era, Milan

Milan is a city with a strong industrial background that is an economically influential business, financial, and design center in Europe and beyond.

By the late 12th century, Milan was one of Italy's most wealthy and industrious hubs due to its large production of armour and wool that increased the Lombary region's wealth. During the Renaissance era, Milan was part of the chain of cities (Venice, Rome, and Florence) that were producing luxury goods, textiles, and fabrics.

At the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Milan became a major European industrial center due to its automobile, chemical, and heavy machinery production industries. It was during this period that companies like Alfa Romeo and Lancia (1906) came to life.

Streets of Milan, Italy

After experiencing bombings during World War II, the city witnessed an economic turnover that lead to the construction of new buildings and the opening of more industries. There are many films that document the day-to-day life and evolution of the city during that time. If you are interested in seeing the urban dynamics in this period, I strongly recommend StraMilano and Milano Vive. Both documentaries capture the essence of the city's great economic development between 1929 and 1954.

One of the consequences of Milan's industrial past is industry's strong imprint on the city's urban fabric. After the period of high industrialization, the spaces used for factories were abandoned, leaving the city with a considerable number of brownfields and large, unused buildings.

In recent years, however, Milan has seen a massive urban transformation of the city. Areas as PirelliFalckMagneti-MarelliInnocenti, and Montedison Rogoredo are just some of the many historical, industrial places that are now being targeted by the city for new planning projects.

Reinventing Milan's industrial past brings great benefits to the city's cultural and artistic endeavours. The municipality seems to be focusing its attention on the re-use of old factories to increase cultural opportunities for its residents. Large spaces that once hosted manufacturing work are now being restructured into multi-cultural spaces that can host workshops and events.

The Steam Factory or Fabbrica del Vapore is one important example. The space has been transformed into a cultural center for artistic design, visual arts, photography, dance, theater, cinema, music, and architecture.

The Steam Factory or Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan, Italy

The factory was first owned by Carminati, Toselli & Co, a company founded in 1899 to manufacture, repair, and sell mobile and fixed materials for trains, and trams. They were hired by the Municipality to construct the public tramway.

In 1985, Palazzo Marino decided to buy the building. They began restructuring the space with the purpose of providing a cultural center while preserving the architectural elements that make the factory a part of industrial history.

The structure was given the name of “Steam Factory” in commemoration of its past and as well as in hope for a progressive future. The charm of the place is most evident during the summer, when it becomes one of the main gathering places for Milan's the youth.

How is you city working to reinvent its industrial past?

Credits: Images by Constantin Avksentev. Data linked to sources.

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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-maki...

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