On the 1878 map of Milan, Lambrate is still an ancient, largely agricultural borough with small dwelling clusters.
In terms of architecture, many farmsteads and several mills are still present in the area. Two examples are the Cascina Sant’Ambrogio in Via Cavriana (now the headquarters of Associazione CasciNet), with its extant Romanesque apse, and, in the Lambro Park, the large Cascina Biblioteca, dating back to medieval times.
In addition to farmsteads, there are also a number of surviving ville di delizia, i.e. suburban holiday residences of noble families.
One of them is Villa Busca Serbelloni, built at the end of the 18th century by Ferdinando Busca Serbelloni, who chose Lambrate as a holiday destination. It is currently privately-owned, and serves as the premises of an architecture and design firm.
The building retains its original architectural structure, although little remains of the extensive garden. It is also known as “la Garibaldina”, having been the residence of Garibaldi on his return to Milan in 1862 after many years of absence.
Lambrate’s centuries-old agrarian tradition fell into gradual decline in 1846 with the construction of one of the first railway lines in Milan. It metamorphosed from an agricultural and suburban area into an important industrial hub, with the building of factories by high-profile companies such as Bombelli, Richard Ginori, De Nora, Cinelli, Faema, Bracco, Tre Marie and many others.
Housing was built to accommodate the huge influx of workers into the area, and the architecture was very distinctive: from the early 20th-century “railing houses” (spartan apartment blocks with railing-lined walkways), the railway workers’ houses in Ortica, the “case minime” (two-storey terraced blocks) in Via Civitavecchia, the neighbourhood blocks for Rizzoli employees, and the Feltre development – an experiment in self-sufficient neighbourhoods built between 1957 and 1960.
The latter project is the work of a group of architects that included Baldessari, De Carlo, Gardella and Mangiarotti, coordinated by Gino Pollini.
There are two distinct areas here. One consists of 4-storey buildings, arranged around shops, public spaces and a church. The other comprises 9-storey buildings positioned around a large green area containing a primary school.
The balance between green areas and buildings, residences and services, makes the Feltre district a successful example of public housing.
Factories began to close down in the mid-1970s, leaving the area with numerous huge, empty industrial sheds. In 2000, architects Mariano Pichler and Gianluigi Mutti launched a regeneration programme in the district, centring on Via Ventura. The initiative attracted many other creative companies that established their headquarters here.
This will become the stylistic signature of Lambrate, which will enjoy significant exposure in the Fuorisalone week.
“Our idea was to replace factory blue collars with white collars,” says architect Pichler, who has overseen the unfolding of this redevelopment initiative. Many contemporary art galleries, such as Monopoli and Francesca Minini, have moved here. Their exhibitions, events and openings have started to make the neighbourhood known to many collectors.
The former Faema building, renovated by architect Aldo Cibic, housed the editorial offices of Abitare magazine for years, then became home to the Mohole school of creative languages, which attracts over five thousand students every year.
Directly opposite, the UNDAI building, designed by Ruatti Studio Architetti, was completed in 2011. With a strikingly original shape, it houses commercial spaces and galleries on the ground floor, restaurants on the first floor and workshops on the upper floors.
The building creates a kind of link between the area’s industrial past and its more recent residential use.
The building is named “Luna” after the installation by Patrick Tuttofuoco.
The Luna sign, salvaged from the defunct Varesine amusement park, is a symbol of continuity for an area that was similarly in danger of ending up abandoned and disused. The old sign, restored and put to use again, is yet another witness to the revival of the district that has become a symbol of ever-changing Milan.
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