Milan is supposed to be the less Italian city in terms of architectural identity: if we consider its most famous monument, the Cathedral, it reminds more to French churches, like Notre Dame in Paris, than to a typical Italian dome.
The city has been an important centre during the Roman Empire, the Renaissance and capital of the ephemeral Italian state created by Napoleon at the beginning of the XIX century, but it seems that all these years have left no tangible remains.
The majority of the population finds Milan as a city without a strong Italian identity: is that true? Is the architectural heritage the only feature for determined the Italian identity of this city?
From the second half of the XX century, “la Madunina” (the statue of the Virgin at the top of the Cathedral) has seen the birth of a new town, in which advanced materials, technology and economic growth have added new elements to the skyline.
First of all in 1954, Breda Tower soon became the symbol of progress for a country involved in the reconstruction after the Second War World. Thought for hosting rich families, this building of 30 floors was provided with futuristic services for that time, such as automatic doors, a mail system connecting the apartments directly with the post office at the ground floor of the building and a balcony where children could play.
1958 is the year of the Velasca Tower: very close to the Cathedral, it is considered the second symbol of Milan (after the Dome, of course). Its particular shape (reminding to a mushroom) is a tribute to the towers built in the Renaissance and it is the solution found by the architects for creating space where it was needed.
Two years later, the landscape of Milan is modified by the Pirelli Tower: the named society was looking for a prestigious location where basing the headquarter. With its 31 floors and 127 meters high, it is one of the highest building all over the world made in reinforced concrete.
From the 90’s, the Garibaldi Station district has been the center of a new era for Milan.
Starting with the two towers wanted by Trenitalia for hosting its offices, in 2007 the building site for the creation of Lombardy Palace was opened. A central tower of 161 meters high is surrounded by a series of buildings of 8 floors connected through a covered square, which holds the record for being the biggest European covered square. In 2012 the Palace has won the title of best European skyscraper, because of its design, innovation and sustainable features.
The eco-friendly topic seems to be the element in common among all the towers in this new district.
Unicredit Tower, opened in February 2014 and surrounding Gae Aulenti square, is easily recognizable thanks to its spire and it has been conceived for maximizing the energy efficiency.
Just behind it, Vertical Forest is a residential complex where to the occupants is asked to have the green thumb, because of more than 2000 plants and trees of 50 different species placed on the balconies from the bottom to the top floor.
After Garibaldi area, the new destination for skyscrapers is the so-called Citylife district. Big building sites have taken the place of the ancient fair area for the rebirth of this part of the city.
Isozaki Tower (or Allianz Tower) has been celebrated in April 2015: with its 247 meters high, it is the highest Italian building. Hadid Tower and Libeskind Tower, known in Milan as Lo Storto (the Twisted Tower) and Il Curvo (the Curved Tower) are planned to be finished in the next years and with the Straight tower (as it is called the Allianz Tower), they are going to modify again the skyline of the city.
As we have seen, the lack of a strong architectural heritage has been taken as an opportunity by architects, who were free to imagine and to create any kind of shape.If the past hasn’t left visible signs on the city skin, it could be interesting supposing that the Golden Age of Milan is now.
Rome has been the centre of the world during the Roman Empire, Florence during the Renaissance, and why not Milan for the present?
Photo credit : commons.wikimedia.org and flickr.com