Memories of Milan’s industrial past
The Milanese railway yards, including the Scalo Farini, played an important part in the construction of Milan as an industrial city. How can we prevent that current urban transformations erase all traces and memories of this important industrial past?
We suggest to preserve parts of the Scalo Farini in the form of a 2 hectare park and playground dedicated to children.
Precedent – Coram’s Fields in London
Coram’s Fields in Bloomsbury, London is a unique 2.8 hectare enclosed playground and park for children and young people living in or visiting London. Access is free. Adults are only permitted to enter if accompanied by children.
It includes a youth centre, a children’s centre, a community nursery for 30 children, a sports programme, a city farm, and a cafe. Coram’ Fields is funded by donations and fundraising.
Italy’s demographic crisis
At less than 1.4 the fertility rate in Italy is among the lowest in Europe. It is far lower than the replacement rate which is 2.1. Also, the mean age of women at the birth of the first child is among the highest in Europe. Italy is heading for a demographical crisis.
France and the UK on the other hand have sustainable fertility rates and younger mothers. Italy has to improve the conditions for families and children. Urban planning and architectural design must contribute. New public spaces dedicated for children is an important and necessary means to improve the lives of Milanese families and children.
Could Italy’s strong educational traditions such as the Reggio Emilia approach, the Montessori educational model, and Remida be revived and put to use to a larger extent? Close to the centre of Milan – within the Scalo Farini – we propose to establish the Scalo Bambini.The Scalo Bambini is offered to Milanese children. Free to use for everyone. Families in the weekends and afternoons, visiting nurseries from the neighbourhood, tourists in the summer. The Scalo Bambini includes playgrounds, a small nursery, a city farm with animals and vegetables, a cafe. Furthermore, a Remida centre, a children’s theatre, concerts, food festivals for children, and other cultural activities can be accomodated within the park.Financing may be based on the educational budgets of the municipality, corporate donors such as UniCredit or Telecom Italia, private fundraising, contributions from visiting nurseries, and fees received by the Scalo Bambini Nursery. Coram’s Fields is an important precedent both programmatically and financially.
In Delirious New York, Rem Koolhaas outlines how Central Park was defined in 1853 to safeguard the area from construction. It is still there despite numerous efforts to build in the parks of New York. The transformation of Scalo Farini should also start with the establishment of a resilient public space, i.e. the Scalo Bambini.
Scalo Bambini will be positioned within the enclosed area in the south of Scalo Farini. This is where the railway tracks crossing Scalo Farini are at the narrowest. Only a short distance separates Scalo Bambini from Cimitero Monumentale.
Thus the Scalo Bambini forms a permanent public enclave deep within the abandoned railway yard, a nucleus that is supposed to attract kids and families, and hence to install the Scalo Farini as a specific place in the conscience of the Milanesi before other development starts in the area. It is supposed to influence and prepare for other urban interventions and transformation in Scalo Farini and the adjacent district.
Simultaneously, the rest of Scalo Farini, including its large logistical buildings, should be opened for public use. Potential uses include outdoor cinema, sports activities, outdoor concerts (perhaps organised by Alcatraz), festivals, street markets, fashion events, circus, go-cart track, and so forth. This would require only a minimum of investment and is based upon successful precedents such as the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin and events already organised by Gucci at Scalo Farini.
Finally, when the time is ripe, Scalo Farini may be developed into a normal urban district in Milan with the Scalo Bambini in its centre.
The architecture of the Scalo Bambini
The abandoned structures from the railway operation have a curious and potentially very beautiful atmosphere, especially within the walls of the future Scalo Bambini. It is a secret garden away from the city.
The existing structures will be repaired. New programme will be carefully assigned to each artifact resulting in a complete and wonderful park for children with a minimum of new construction.
The charming temple-like structure in the middle of the site will become a centre for diverse artistic and cultural activities for children such as Remida, theatre, concerts. There will be playgrounds, an orchard, a cafe. An existing house will be refurbished as a nursery for 30 children, another building will become a shelter for animals.