“The Bicocca district in the 1990s should not be a closed space, inaccessible to the local population, but on the contrary a place that is open, with enormous potential for communication and economic, social and cultural interaction. An area where new technologies ‘will speak the language of the people’, restoring urban value to the old city-factory of Bicocca.” This is how Leopoldo Pirelli described the Bicocca Project in 1986. It was the largest urban redevelopment project in Europe, covering an area of 700,000 square metres in the area north of Milan, where the Pirelli factory had produced tyres, cables and miscellaneous rubber items ever since 1908. The redevelopment plan was about to transform the Bicocca district, turning it into an area devoted to new technologies, services, and the advanced tertiary sector. After this long transformation process, which is still underway today, the area is home not just to Pirelli – with its headquarters, its Research and Development laboratories, and the Pirelli Foundation – but also to the University of Milano-Bicocca, research centres, a number of companies, private homes, and places devoted to culture. The traces of the past that Ingegner Pirelli referred to are dotted around the present-day Bicocca district, which was conceived by the architect Vittorio Gregotti, whose firm won the international competition for the redevelopment of the area with a project that was “inspired by simplicity and respect for the site and its traditions”. But the place that more than any other has preserved the history of the district is the Pirelli Foundation, which contains the company’s Historical Archive. Here, documents, projects and, above all, photographs make it possible to reconstruct a map of the area and of how it has changed. Places often immortalised by the lenses of great photographers, with whom Pirelli has always worked to document its activity and its development, such as Gabriele Basilico, Toni Nicolini, Francesco Radino, to mention but a few. This rich heritage will be shown off in particular on Sunday 27 October at an event designed for those who love photography and the history of Milan. The occasion is part of the fifth edition of “Archivi Aperti”, or Open Archives, promoted by Rete Fotografia. Participants will be able to go through the area on Pirelli e-bikes – the latest generation of pedal-assisted bicycles – focusing on the traces and echoes of the past that have survived to the present day, and taking photographs from the same angles chosen by the greatest photographers. The tour leaves from the Pirelli Foundation and continues along the streets of the district: from the Pirelli Headquarters to the Borgo Pirelli, which was built in the 1920s, passing by the Deutsche Bank building designed by the architect Gino Valle, all the way to the Greco Pirelli railway station and the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, which opened in 2001. And then on to the University, with building 184, the first construction to be renovated as part of the Bicocca Project. A constant dialogue between past and present, in one of the most fascinating areas of Milan.
The most successful shots will be published next to the historic ones on the Pirelli Foundation’s digital channels: if you wish to take part in the event, send us your social media profile and tell us about your interest in the world of photography and in the city of Milan, indicating which tour you would like to go on, by writing to email@example.com – we will get back to you as soon as possible.