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Three alternative approaches to interpret and act on the urban landscape.

'Make the invisible visible' and re-establish the disconnected flows that run within the city: the vision of a sustainable project for Via Malaga – Milan – must necessarily take into account the pre-existing urban areas and buildings, enhance them in strategic terms and respect the values ​​linked to the memory of the place, and through the project it must recognize them, protect them and enhance them. In this way, the protection and construction of an identity for this place, through the insertion of new elements necessary for the recovery of a degraded area, guarantees a greater permanence and acceptance of a new intervention by the community.

Study team: Prof. Barbara Coppetti, Prof. Angela Poletti with Raffaella Cavallaro, Fabio Santonicola

Work group: Blagojevic Jelena, Saldutti Maria Luz, Sari Jale


Exploring the morphological and cultural transformation of Milan between the early 19th century up until now has proved the city to be multiple, ambitious and in constant change. Starting its formation as a walled city, Milan has been shaped primarily by waterways and later on by driveways during the Modernist era. Looking at 2030 development plans, the city aims to connect through a green loop that revitalizes abandoned railway yards and under used spaces surrounds them to cope up with the city air and water pollution and the disconnectivity of various neighborhoods.

Once a clean canal, Via Malaga is one of these abandoned spaces located at the intersection of cultural (Tortona), educational (Navigli) and art (Barona) Milan districts and has a unique potential of connecting them to each other as an ecological, recreational and economic benefit to the city.

By looking at the intervening nature of the cities that consist of different districts, neighborhoods and various access routes, it became clear that to revitalize Via Malaga it was necessary to make the invisible visible and re-establish the disconnected flows that run within the city. Engaging with the proposed green loop, this park aims to connect different districts and become a dynamic platform for the whole neighborhood.

Design strategy diagram

General Masterplan

Although the goal of embracing a polluted canal and abandoned arches located under the train tracks as a recreational amenity might have seemed impossible years ago, today, this designed space acts as an urban connector that collects and connects different paths which it gives life to. Coming from different areas, these paths create a network of programmatic connections to the canal as well as to the existing building stock by overlapping and crossing each other. From being a divider due to the abandoned buildings and disconnected pedestrian/cycle paths, Via Malaga aims to become a connector by promoting urban diversity and reconstructing the ecological corridor.

A series of cultural, educational, social and commercial buildings are located in the park and along the existing building stock. Their program is to trigger interest and income for the area and thus secure a high-level maintenance program for the park.

With new connections that enrich and diversify the life along the canal, this seemingly linear park consists of seven areas: the connectors, the yard, ateliers, sun decks, the stage, the forum and the piers.

'The Connectors’ is the northern link that connects Tortona district to the park. Providing access to the continuous bike path and seating spaces to enjoy the canal, this space becomes the entry plaza to the site.

Through revitalizing the 12 abandoned arches located under the train tracks, ‘The Yard’ connects the park to the main access routes along the Naviglio Grande. By allowing the pedestrian foot falls and the bike path into the park, this space becomes a transition zone that guides people in.

‘Ateliers’ that embodies the unused arches, provides visitors and residents with a series of networking and maker spaces. Open to public use, these nooks are also a window to the rest of the city that allows passers by to join the activities taking place within them.

‘The Yard’: a new square in the area of ​​the arches

The park includes a variety of active and passive uses – informal play, public gathering, community events, picnicking, sitting, strolling, and watching – determined through an extensive community outreach process. The open space serves as a public amenity by doubling the current community open space. As the first one in the series of piers and floating wetland gardens. ‘Sun Decks’ is the place to soak up the sun in as it’s placed facing the morning sun. By introducing a modular seating arrangement that consists of timber decking and wired sleeping nets, this space allows people to have contact with nature.

Following up on the outdoor seating areas, ‘The Stage’ is located in front of the existing Artakademy building and enables outdoor events and informal skating to take place.

Tree-lined promenades extend the park’s network of pedestrian paths and meanders, with a variety of seating areas for respite, contemplation, and watching park activities, plazas for gathering and performances, and picnicking within the tree groves.

The Forum’ is the core that turns the urban space into a cultural space by clustering existing building stocks and the new functions under a frame that allows cultural diversity to thrive. By collecting and connecting the new and the old buildings with a campus like setting, this space becomes a public avenue for creators to connect and network.


As well as being a cultural hub, by using recycled steel beams for its frame, the building roof becomes an energy infrastructure thanks to the integrated PV panels and its ability to collect and store the storm water. Also through this frame, the building design achieves to have a double roof system which provides shading and cooling opportunities. This cooled space is a public access that can be enjoyed by many, including disabled people.

‘The Forum’: a new a cultural hub

New urban sections: how the movements of the soil define the nature of the different open spaces

The Forum axonometric view

The Forum exploded axonometric view

Situated next to the existing school space within the site, ‘The Piers’ offer an interactive learning environment about the ecology of the canal including opportunities for fishing and identifying native plants. This space is also the south link of the park to the nearby green area which establishes a connection as a green infrastructure.

As a unique opportunity to speed up progress towards the global objectives of sustainability, Via Malaga Park reappropriates the space for wellbeing and physical activities which essentially creates a cooling effect for its surroundings and deprives it from the heat island effect by its rich green infrastructure. Providing a variety of porous paving, the green space within the scope can help collect and store the storm water by adopting sponge city design techniques. Storm water management directs water to primary landscape areas to promote infiltration rather than municipal treatment. Thanks to the mounds, the turf spaces along with porous paving areas, the park becomes an establishment of a Sustainable urban drainage system as well as providing an atmospheric emission with its large tree stock – mostly consisting of existing trees and vegetation.

Since connectivity is the main function of this green infrastructure, it enables the flows of the cities to be re-established, allowing movement and triggering social activities and liveliness to its surroundings. By turning challenges into opportunities, design provides both continuity and variety for visitors and residents. The distinct programs and forms of each typological space allow for diverse experiences on the canal and around the buildings, ranging from workspaces to expansive public events, programming to new amenities for human-powered craft. At the same time, design materials, details, and repeated forms provide visual cohesion along the entire project.

This new urban park revitalizes its community and visually reconnects it to the canal and can exemplify how urban open space can be a key factor in civic regeneration and social sustainability.

Article by

supervisors R. Cavallaro e F. Santonicola; students: Blagojevic Jelena, Saldutti Maria Luz, Sari Jale

Image Credits

Blagojevic Jelena, Saldutti Maria Luz, Sari Jale; Supervisors R. Cavallaro F. Santonicola


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