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MAD Architects propose transforming Milan's abandoned railyards into nature-fused leisure districts

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London South Bank University
£31,396 to £34,557, inclusive of £4,952 London Weighting
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location: Dunfermline, Scotland, United Kingdom
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The vitality of the future city does not rely on top-down modernist planning, but exists in the symbiosis of multi-layer urban elements
– Ma Yansong

MAD Architects have unveiled an ambitious plan to reinvigorate seven of Milan’s abandoned and dilapidated railyards into a series of interlinked green parks and new leisure communities.

Extensive landscaping runs throughout the project, while new residential, commercial and public developments will be “grafted into the landscape” in the form of MAD’s trademark organic nature-like structures.

The railyards will be collated into three main villages formed around a repurposed freight warehouse.

MAD's proposal is called ‘Historical Future: Milan Reborn for Scali Milano’. Four other international architecture firms have also been invited to put forward their own ideas: Stefano Boeri Architetti, Mecanoo Architecten, Miralles Tagliabue and Cino Zucchi Architetti.

The scheme – which is designed to “establish a harmony between Milan’s citizenry, the larger metropolitan region and the natural environment – was publicly showcased during Milan Design Week from April 4 - 9.

The seven selected railyards – Scalo San Cristoforo, Scalo Rogoredo, Scalo Lambrate, Scalo Greco-Breda, Scalo Porta Romana, Scalo Porta Genova and Scalo Farini and Valtellina – have been in varying states of disuse since the last century.

The municipality of Milan and the government of the wider Lombardy Region have long been developing a masterplan to repurpose the sites so they can “address and celebrate population growth as the city continues to densify.”

Interconnected micro-systems will conform to five spatial concepts, named ‘City of Connections,’ ‘City of Green,’ ‘City of Living,’ ‘City of Culture,’ and ‘City of Resources.’ The freight warehouse will form an organisational nexus that unifies the scales and programmes of the design proposal.

Explaining the concept in a statement, MAD said: “The diagrammatic approach addresses a vernacular development typical of Italian cities, where various typological elements and scales are overlapped into dense systems of relations.

“Designing first at the human scale within recognisable landmarks, the broader urban scale is connected to smaller ones through the interjection of topographic landscapes, serving to unify the continually changing relations of the pedestrian, city, and nature. Each of the yards, following the necessities of their adjacent neighborhoods, will thus take on new lives and functions within their sites’ dense histories.”

MAD founder Ma Yansong added: “The vitality of the future city does not rely on top-down modernist planning, but exists in the symbiosis of multi-layer urban elements, and the chemistry among them.

“These elements, such as the railyards fragments, have the potential to be redesigned to adapt to, and meet, the needs of a variety of contemporary social concerns, through their addressing of specific localities and communities. Context-specific design interventions will stimulate necessary socioeconomic opportunities, and help reshape the city of Milan.”

While the vast scale of this project is unique, this is not the first time abandoned transport infrastructure has been used as a catalyst for urban regeneration. The success of New York’s elevated High Line – the conversion of a section of railway in Manhattan into a popular park – has inspired similar initiatives as far afield as Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and London.

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