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Narrating Milan through images and celebrations: a city on the move

Narrating Milan through images, avant-garde literature, celebrations, museums.

Narrating it, for instance, through a special volume consisting in a long strip of paper that, when unfolded, comprises two metres of drawings representing its skyline, made of historical buildings and modern skyscrapers: Ecco Milano. Ritratto di una città che cambia (Here is Milan. Portrait of a city in evolution) by architect Matteo Pericoli, a Rizzoli edition that follows similar publishing initiatives for London and New York, expressing the conviction that “the new skyscrapers have narrative potential”.

Narrating it through a TV series, too – Monterossi, on Amazon Prime Video (from Monday), brings to the screen fictional character Carlo Monterossi, the protagonist of Alessandro Robecchi‘s brilliant detective stories, published by Sellerio. The character is successfully played by Fabrizio Bentivoglio, who feels perfectly at ease in the shoes of the creator of a trashy TV series called Crazy Love, ashamed of his work yet enjoying its lucrative rewards, with a passion for investigation and gloom, who obsessively listens to Bob Dylan songs and is “an accidental winner who loves losers” (as maintained by his creator Robecchi). Milan itself stars, too – black and ironic, the complete opposite of a city lit up by the “thousand lights” of finance, fashion and communication, so much so that Robecchi, who can’t stand stereotypes, asserts, “Over the past 30 years, in Milan we’re all fashion models and designers. I want to say that it’s not so, there are normal people, too. Milanese people are thought of as rich jackasses, and being from Milan myself, I want to protest this image” (la Repubblica, 15 January).

This, only in reference to design clichés as, forgetting about appearances, Milan is home to the true art of design, which characterises with quality and beauty the best industrial culture and the image of our country, and of which Milan offers extraordinary examples at the ADI Design Museum on Piazza Compasso d’Oro and in some of the main corporate museums part of Museimpresa (the association founded 20 years ago by territorial entrepreneurial institutions Assolombarda and Confindustria). There, at the ADI Museum, we find the expression of “the identity of Milan through items that have become symbolic, the material culture of our dwellings” – as wittily pointed out by Aldo Bonomi, a sociologist extremely aware of cultural and social metamorphoses – and proof of a growth that has acquired international success and gives rise to excellent export rates, a kind of “regional capitalism” that appeals to global consumers and that every year is captured by the Salone del Mobile, the local and national prestigious furniture fair boasting international allure, the focal point where industry, culture and, indeed, design intersect (Il Sole24Ore, 11 January).

Narrating Milan through its cultural celebrations, too. Like the 100th anniversary of Giorgio Strehler‘s birth, featuring a schedule packed with initiatives held at the Piccolo Teatro and talks with other culturally prominent figures, skilfully curated by Claudio Longhi, the Piccolo’s director, fascinated by the still reverberating echoes of Lombard enlightenment and by a city “that preserves a rather unique relationship between theatre and community” (la Repubblica, 23 December 2021).

Without forgetting the 50th anniversary of the Teatro Franco Parenti, inaugurated on 16 January 1973 with the staging of “Ambleto”, by Giovanni Testori, whose commemoration by Gioele Dix and Andrée Ruth Shammah, the indomitable creative soul of the theatre, was eagerly announced to take place on 16 January.

Or, furthermore, the 20th anniversary of the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, designed by Vittorio Gregotti in the Bicocca neighbourhood, historical site of the Pirelli plants. A theatre that, today, is a “hub of culture and sociability, a space where everyone – audience and artists – can have a good time”, as its manager Gianmario Longoni believes (la Repubblica, 11 January). All around it, the neighbourhood is growing, with a large university (with over 30,000 students), housing, service businesses, company headquarters (including Pirelli’s).

Then again, in Milan, anniversaries are never just about remembrance but rather opportunities to take stock and announce new projects, to weave memories and future together.

In essence, it’s customary to narrate a city by representing its life on the move, and here we can only presume that, among commitments, investments and ambitious projects, being on the move means intense activity, a vainglorious frenzy, even. Yet, things really do happen, suffice to look at the quality of life chart drawn up, like every year, by newspaper Il Sole24Ore, showing Milan in second place in 2021, just after Trieste, almost reaching the lead it boasted in 2019.

Milan as a hard-working, vain city, whose many social and cultural (and as such economic) sides are troubled by the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that it’s considering to postpone its Salone del Mobile, usually held in April, to the summer. Nonetheless, a city that never stands still: recalling just a few recent headlines, works in MilanoSesto, on the 250,000 square metres where the Falck Steelworks used to be, are beginning (one of the most significant urban regeneration project in Europe); the new campus of the Brera Academy is being built on the site of the former Farini railway station; new investments have been injected into MIND (Milano Innovation District, where seven years ago the Expo 2015 was held, marking the metropolis’ impetuous recovery).

No one, in the social and cultural spheres, in the corporate world and in public administration denies the burdens of this crisis. No one underestimates its personal and social costs. Yet, everyone is aware of the underlying nature of a metropolis that draws together, absorbs, integrates and knows how to harmonise productivity and social inclusion, competitiveness and solidarity: a culture based on projects, work, enterprise, know-how – all new beginnings, in fact, and narration is part of all this.

(Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

Narrating Milan through images, avant-garde literature, celebrations, museums.

Narrating it, for instance, through a special volume consisting in a long strip of paper that, when unfolded, comprises two metres of drawings representing its skyline, made of historical buildings and modern skyscrapers: Ecco Milano. Ritratto di una città che cambia (Here is Milan. Portrait of a city in evolution) by architect Matteo Pericoli, a Rizzoli edition that follows similar publishing initiatives for London and New York, expressing the conviction that “the new skyscrapers have narrative potential”.

Narrating it through a TV series, too – Monterossi, on Amazon Prime Video (from Monday), brings to the screen fictional character Carlo Monterossi, the protagonist of Alessandro Robecchi‘s brilliant detective stories, published by Sellerio. The character is successfully played by Fabrizio Bentivoglio, who feels perfectly at ease in the shoes of the creator of a trashy TV series called Crazy Love, ashamed of his work yet enjoying its lucrative rewards, with a passion for investigation and gloom, who obsessively listens to Bob Dylan songs and is “an accidental winner who loves losers” (as maintained by his creator Robecchi). Milan itself stars, too – black and ironic, the complete opposite of a city lit up by the “thousand lights” of finance, fashion and communication, so much so that Robecchi, who can’t stand stereotypes, asserts, “Over the past 30 years, in Milan we’re all fashion models and designers. I want to say that it’s not so, there are normal people, too. Milanese people are thought of as rich jackasses, and being from Milan myself, I want to protest this image” (la Repubblica, 15 January).

This, only in reference to design clichés as, forgetting about appearances, Milan is home to the true art of design, which characterises with quality and beauty the best industrial culture and the image of our country, and of which Milan offers extraordinary examples at the ADI Design Museum on Piazza Compasso d’Oro and in some of the main corporate museums part of Museimpresa (the association founded 20 years ago by territorial entrepreneurial institutions Assolombarda and Confindustria). There, at the ADI Museum, we find the expression of “the identity of Milan through items that have become symbolic, the material culture of our dwellings” – as wittily pointed out by Aldo Bonomi, a sociologist extremely aware of cultural and social metamorphoses – and proof of a growth that has acquired international success and gives rise to excellent export rates, a kind of “regional capitalism” that appeals to global consumers and that every year is captured by the Salone del Mobile, the local and national prestigious furniture fair boasting international allure, the focal point where industry, culture and, indeed, design intersect (Il Sole24Ore, 11 January).

Narrating Milan through its cultural celebrations, too. Like the 100th anniversary of Giorgio Strehler‘s birth, featuring a schedule packed with initiatives held at the Piccolo Teatro and talks with other culturally prominent figures, skilfully curated by Claudio Longhi, the Piccolo’s director, fascinated by the still reverberating echoes of Lombard enlightenment and by a city “that preserves a rather unique relationship between theatre and community” (la Repubblica, 23 December 2021).

Without forgetting the 50th anniversary of the Teatro Franco Parenti, inaugurated on 16 January 1973 with the staging of “Ambleto”, by Giovanni Testori, whose commemoration by Gioele Dix and Andrée Ruth Shammah, the indomitable creative soul of the theatre, was eagerly announced to take place on 16 January.

Or, furthermore, the 20th anniversary of the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, designed by Vittorio Gregotti in the Bicocca neighbourhood, historical site of the Pirelli plants. A theatre that, today, is a “hub of culture and sociability, a space where everyone – audience and artists – can have a good time”, as its manager Gianmario Longoni believes (la Repubblica, 11 January). All around it, the neighbourhood is growing, with a large university (with over 30,000 students), housing, service businesses, company headquarters (including Pirelli’s).

Then again, in Milan, anniversaries are never just about remembrance but rather opportunities to take stock and announce new projects, to weave memories and future together.

In essence, it’s customary to narrate a city by representing its life on the move, and here we can only presume that, among commitments, investments and ambitious projects, being on the move means intense activity, a vainglorious frenzy, even. Yet, things really do happen, suffice to look at the quality of life chart drawn up, like every year, by newspaper Il Sole24Ore, showing Milan in second place in 2021, just after Trieste, almost reaching the lead it boasted in 2019.

Milan as a hard-working, vain city, whose many social and cultural (and as such economic) sides are troubled by the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that it’s considering to postpone its Salone del Mobile, usually held in April, to the summer. Nonetheless, a city that never stands still: recalling just a few recent headlines, works in MilanoSesto, on the 250,000 square metres where the Falck Steelworks used to be, are beginning (one of the most significant urban regeneration project in Europe); the new campus of the Brera Academy is being built on the site of the former Farini railway station; new investments have been injected into MIND (Milano Innovation District, where seven years ago the Expo 2015 was held, marking the metropolis’ impetuous recovery).

No one, in the social and cultural spheres, in the corporate world and in public administration denies the burdens of this crisis. No one underestimates its personal and social costs. Yet, everyone is aware of the underlying nature of a metropolis that draws together, absorbs, integrates and knows how to harmonise productivity and social inclusion, competitiveness and solidarity: a culture based on projects, work, enterprise, know-how – all new beginnings, in fact, and narration is part of all this.

(Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)