Renowned as the fashion capital of the world, Milan is the economic centre of Italy thanks to several international events and fairs, including Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, which are currently among the world’s biggest, in terms of revenue and visitors. This Italian city is not only an icon in fashion but also houses architectural wonders that even the most casual visitor can appreciate.
During the twentieth century, in the early decades, as well as after the World War II, Milan has acquired an important role for the Italian and the international architecture thanks to the work of Giuseppe Terragni, Gio Ponti, BBPR, Caccia Dominioniand, and Aldo Rossi, that led to the identification of a specific “style Milano”.
Over the past decade, and with the boost of the World Expo in 2015, Milan lived a period of extraordinary change. Two major urban regeneration projects, Porta Nuova and City Life, and specific interventions such as the Vertical Forest, Fondazione Prada, Feltrinelli, Bocconi University and Mudec, have seen the work of the best-known Italian and international architects.
Here are 15 places every architect must visit when in Milan.
1. DUOMO DI MILANO
The most famous site in Milan is the centrally located Duomo di Milano, or the Milan cathedral, is a fine example of Gothic architecture whose construction spanned six centuries, from the 1380s to the 1960s. Cladded in Candoglia marble, its detailed façade includes 135 spires and 3,400 statues, many of which can be viewed up close by ascending to the cathedral’s roof.Inside the cathedral the hugestained glass depicts the biblical scenes and the incredibly large statue of harmonica and the golden statue called Madonnina are hard to miss. If you have deep enough pockets, then you can also adopt a statue and have your name engraved on the bottom of it.
2. GALLERIA VITTORIO EMANUELE II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the oldest example of a shopping mall in the world, completed in 1877 by architect Giuseppe Mengoni. Today it houses all the luxury brands, making it the most expensive piece of real estate. The exquisite marble floors right by each exit has a mosaic which depicts the four flags of the main cities of Italy, Rome, Florence, Turin and Milan.
3. TEATRO ALLA SCALA
Teatro alla scala is the most famous opera house in the world. The building dates back to 1778 when it was completed for then-ruler Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. The place came down to ruins in the Second World War and was rebuilt only three years later. In 2004 it was renovated by Swiss architect Mario Botta.
4. SFORZA CASTLE
It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remnants of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Extensively rebuilt by Luca Beltrami in 1891–1905, it now houses several of the city’s museums and art collections.The original construction was ordered by local lord Galeazzo II Visconti in 1358–c. 1370. His successors Gian Galeazzo, Giovanni Maria and Filippo Maria Visconti enlarged it, until it became a square-plan castle with 200 m-long sides, four towers at the corners and up to 7-metre-thick (23 ft) walls.
5. SAN CARLO AL CORSO
This church is dedicated to Saint Ambrose and Saint Charles Borromeo, the patron saints of Milan. A glorious example of Milan’s collection of neoclassical chapels, San Carlo al Corso in the city center was completed in 1847 by architect Carlo Amati.
6. PORTA SEMPIONE
The Simplon Gate is located at the center of a wide round square known as “Piazza Sempione” (Simplon Square). It is adjacent to the Simplon Park, the main city park of Milan, which was designed with the explicit intent of providing panoramic views encompassing both the Arch and the nearby Sforza Castle. It is a neoclassical triumphal arch, 25 m high and 24 m wide, decorated with a number of bas-reliefs, statues, and Corinthian columns.
7. BAGATTI VALSECCHI MUSEUM
In the 1880s the Bagatti Valsecchi brothers, Fausto and Giuseppe, enriched their family’s Centro Storico estate, amassing a splendid trove of 15th- and 16th-century paintings, furniture, and tapestries. Many of their favoured pieces are on display at the home, now the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum, which opened to the public in 1994.
8. MILANO CENTRALE RAILWAY STATION
Stazione Milano Centrale is the main railway station of the city of Milan, Italy and is the largest railway station in Europe by volume. The station is a terminus and located at the northern end of central Milan. It was officially inaugurated in 1931 to replace the old central station (built 1864), which was a transit station but with a limited number of tracks and space, so could not handle the increased traffic caused by the opening of the Simplon tunnel in 1906.
9. TORRE VELASCA
Designed in the 1950s by the BBPR architectural partnership, this Brutalist icon, known as Torre Velasca, dominates Milan’s skyline, recalling the form of a medieval watchtower.
10. LA TORRE ARCOBALENO
In 1990 Milan-based Studio Original Designers 6R5 Network transformed a 115-foot water tower into a colourful Rainbow Tower. It is located in the bustling Porta Garibaldi neighbourhood. The colourful tower scales 35 m and was constructed in 1964. The tower feels like a fresh vibrant addition to the existing architecture of Milan.
11. PARCO DELLA PORTELLO
On a 17-acre former industrial site in northwest Milan, designer Charles Jencks collaborated with landscape architecture firm LAND and Margherita Brianza to plan Parco della Portello, which opened in 2013.
12. MUSEO DEL NOVECENTO
The Palazzo dell’ Arengario, a 1950s complex in central Milan, was transformed in 2010 by architects Italo Rota and Fabio Fornasari, who turned the aging structure into the Museo del Novecento. The museum opened in December 2010, and displays about 400 works, most of them Italian, from the twentieth century.
13. BOSCO VERTICALE
Designed by architect Stefano Boeri, Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest, is a mixed-use complex that opened in 2014. Located in the Porta Nuova neighbourhood, the project includes a striking pair of luxury residential towers with lushly planted terraces.
14. CASA DELLA MEMORIA
Also known as House of Memory, and located adjacent to Bosco Verticale, Casa della Memoria was completed in 2015 by local architecture studio Baukuh and is clad in polychrome bricks, arranged to depict historical images.
15.ARMANI / SILOS
The exhibition space was opened in 2015. Armani / Silos, located at Via Bergognone 40, is in what was originally the granary of a major international company. Following the renovation, the building, constructed in 1950, measures around 4,500 square meters on four levels. The designer conceived and oversaw the renovation project himself. The opening exhibition covered all four floors of the building, including 600 outfits and 200 accessories from Giorgio Armani’s collections from 1980 to the present.