My summer trip to Milan was an immersion in Italian modernism, where detail and decoration animate purer northern forms. Milan’s historic boulevards are alive with new design — from the crisp modern architecture of the 1930’s and the Suprematist/Superstudio styling of 1970’s to today’s diverse modern strains. This is a vibrant cosmopolitan city. Walking the city was like being in Lewis Carroll’s wonderland: circles and squares, arches, columns, cobblestone, and inscriptions animate floors, walls and ceilings of the city. Take a turn and the unexpected appears. Perhaps this is why Italian designer are so at ease in mixing styles in both architecture and furniture.
My Italian affair began right at the metro station from the airport. You might not personally like the aesthetic, but it’s bold and they went for it! Cool I say.
Not far from our hotel was the Museo del Novecento, designed during the 1930 but built in the 1950’s, and adding symmetry and weight to the Piazza del Duomo. The road leading to Rome is framed by the two buildings, completing the axis of the Galeria Victor Emmanuel built in the 1800’s. This is the type of modern classicism which I love. Step through the arches to see the high relief sculptures of the portals. A thoughtful renovation completed in 2010 by inserted a glass shell inside the arches, providing a clear counter-point to the high-gothic forms of the Duomo. Inside simple detailing with modern materials articulate the space. The spiral ramp is a great use of negative space.
Milan is best experience outside. A walk through the neighborhoods reveals fantastic examples of architecture. I wondered why we settle with same-ness when we can choose to dream, to embrace originality based on history. You can see the influences in a short walk…very inspiring.
Perhaps because I am a modernist, I loved the richly decorated surfaces in Milan. Engraved, carved, and trawled pattern animate much of the city, from the elaborate facade of Sforzesco Castle to ordinary floor tile found at the local gay bar. Being a modernist doesn’t mean being monastic. Rich and varied materiality becomes more important when design is guided by a rigorous framework.
David Bjørngaard, October 2015