Made in Milan


This project takes place in the city of Milan and aims to bring productive activity back to the city centre. Nine vertical production towers will be developed as plugins at the M2 subway stops and using existing infrastructures, networks, verticality and depths.

Milan, Italy’s leading banking and trading centre, had an important industrial past. Along with Torinoand Genova, the 3 cities housed many factories related to metallurgy, textiles and luxury until the beginning of the 20th century. However, in Milan, these industries were gradually ousted from the city during the 20th century.The old bastion of the “Made in Italy” does not exist anymore (Italian pride).

In the last few years, according to the problem of the Italian industrial district, this departure has been questioned again and the place of local know-how has been brought back to life.In 2017, the Italian government launched an economic recovery plan to promote industry 4.0, taking Milan as its main city. Therefore, if the idea here is to bring productive activity back to the centre of Milan, it is necessary to rethink the productive space and its place in the city. The idea of this project is to develop a new production system that would be present on the scale of the city, using existing infrastructures, networks, verticality and depths.

The logistic aspect, flow management and the possibilities offered by the environment where the factory is located are fundamental. The city of Milan benefits from an efficient rail and road network, making it an important crossroad for goods. The way to import and export raw materials and manufactured products, to get from the outskirts to the city centre, will be via the M2 metro network, which joins the Cologno freight station and the outskirts for European trade.

In this urban project, production towers (nine) are built at each M2 subway stops in Milan. These vertical plants receive goods in the basement by underground freighter from midnight to 6am (storage area and dock gantry). During the day, these subway stops are used by regular users and employees. Closer deliveries will be made via drone by sending the product to the platform at the top of the tower and by automatic car.

For compactness reasons, factories become vertical. These productive spaces take the form of a concrete tower in order to accommodate several industries and their machinery (mutualization of logistics and vertical movements). They echo the concrete towers of Gio Ponti, a symbol of the city’s identity.The management of flows, which will be vertical, is carried out via a traffic column with a machine elevator, elevators for goods, raw materials and users, overlooking the various production platforms (industrialshow). This column, which is also structural, links the storage logistics area of the basement to the high production floors. The organization is a hierarchy ranging from low value productions, which are fully mechanized in the basement, to high value productions at the top of the tower.

Questions were raised about the mono-functionality of existing factories, their visibility and poetic link. By regaining its place in an urban environment, the productive space contributes to the mix of functions important for the city of tomorrow. The factory becomes a piece of the city that proposes new uses and spaces, not a mono-functional unit.

There would be 3 types of associated spaces chosen according to the needs of the environment around the metro stop; housing, office and public/leisure space, located at the base and the top of the tower.

The site developed architecturally is Porta Nuova at the Metro Gioia stop, a new quarter of the towers. The production tower takes over the plot of an old building, ends in the park and passes over a roadway. The tower is located under the ground directly at the metro stop and a pre-existing car park. This tower proposes production floor and public spaces, restaurant, amphitheatre, exhibition space, shop, commerce. This buildings will contribute to the mix of functions important to the city.

The building consists entirely of a concrete structure. Porticoes with fine and high beams cover the long spans. The open-plan spaces see the development of circular staircases and pink concrete boxes that give rhythm to the place and close certain functions. Concrete arches, covered with terrazzo granite, filter the light in the facade and on the flat roof.

Finally we could imagine the life of a Milanese woman, receiving by drone a pair of shoes, which she would try in the park of Porta Nuova. She stops for a drink at the top of the factory after seeing the scenography of the machines. Then she takes the metro from where she would see the choreography of the containers. She stops at the next factory and walks in front of the window of the building where the products made from the production tower are displayed for sale. The inhabitants work there and shape products within their city.

The « Made in Milan » finds its place in the city, gives a new breath to each neighbourhood and makes it its pride.


Who influences you graphically?

The graphic influence of the project was naturally derived from the study of Italian industrial design and its aesthetic codes in 20th century advertising in Italy. In the “advertising art” which, in Italy,was supported by artists and graphic designers, I was inspired by the works found in the Milanese magazine Campo grafico or Stile Industria with Olivetti, Pirelli, Carboni and Gio Ponti. These references between design and marketing for mass consumption have a simple graphic and colourful language, coherent to put forward an industrial productionaesthetic.

What is the role of the short clips?

The role of this short clip was to show the divergences between basement and above ground by a poetic immersion in these Milanese spaces. By crossing the skin of the city, one thus finds in the image of a mirror, the same traces of movement, connection, flow and life proper to the city. We also see how this human anthill is being enriched by new programs and we discover the potential of this one (for example for the productive city of tomorrow). Thus between the white light of the vertical Milan and the contrasting neon lights of the Milanese basement, connections and interactions emerge. This mirror video later gave rise to the creation of an animated flip book cf “series of images in different positions that create the illusion of flowing movement when the thumb is placed so the pages flip quickly».

Video Player

What defined the language of representation of the project? How instrumental were Italian posters from the last century?

 This production tower project needed a clear and effective language of representation. But far from the futuristic projects of production in town showing grey cities and dark and dull factories, the idea here was to show the project in a very colourful and simple way like the Italian advertising posters and industrial magazines of the 20th century. Resistant to American advertising, Italian advertising considered itself a means of artistic expression. This “propaganda” was determined by a production, but it should not be limited to increasing sales of the products: it could acquire an educational value for the public, until it became an “element of social and artistic progress. The first graphic designers dealt almost exclusively with “propaganda editions, i.e. brochures, leaflets, commercial catalogues and advertisements”. Today these advertising propaganda to the glory of the production made in Italy is highlighted in many retrospective exhibitions and collection book as well as works of art in Italy and Europe.

You talk about bringing back productive activity’ to the centre of Milan, what is for you the contemporary condition of the city centre?

 The centres of future cities will have to promote an urban mix and thus re-mix housing and work including productive streets. Indeed if in the future cyber technologies will be an integral part of our lives, the production of manufactured products will also benefit from these new technologies and management that will enable it to find its place not in gloomy industrial areas but in urban centres.

But even more than this mix of programs, the city of tomorrow, like the city of Blade runner, will be more vertical than ever and will also use its depths. Indeed the city will no longer be seen as a 2D plan but will integrate the air and land scale for transport and flow and energy management. Between the improvement of metro networks and the generalization of projects such as Hyper- loop, I think we will also see a generalization of the use of UAVs and other flying devices that will free up space on the ground for urban life.

How do you see your towers relating to the existing fabric of Porta Nuova?

Porta nuova was an abandonned area that had fallen prey to decay. The city of Milan has decided to create a new important center in this place and to inject Residential, Cultural, Hotel Greens Areas, Exhibition Offices and Showroom in the same place. All possible functions are concentrated in this new area. Similarly, this site now benefits from efficient transport infrastructures with metros and stations. It therefore seemed intelligent to take advantage of these mix of functions and ease of transport to inject production back into the city centre. Indeed this district can thus embody the Milanese renewal. By taking back its place in the city, the productive space participates in the mix of functions dear to the city of tomorrow. Like some factories, the productive space must not only be limited to its processing capacity but must embrace different uses and thus meet the needs of the city in a localized or global way the factory of tomorrow. In the 21st century it is possible to ski at the Amarre power station in Copenhagen, dance on the terraces of the energy bunker in Hamburg or drink coffee at the Dresden factory. This confrontation between the activity of relaxation and the productive activity can thus establish the place of the productive space as a necessary and useful element for the city. Similarly, by offering new activities, these productive places can take on a positive image and participate in the imagination of a neighbourhood. But above all these activities can give rise to a certain poetry in these places ofproduction.

How and to what extent will mechanisms as drones and self driving cars effect the city and how we move across it?

Like certain commercial ambitions in certain groups such as Amazone, transport by UAV is still marginal. However with the expansion of new technologies, the Internet and the democratization of recreational UAVs, it seems obvious that this means of transport and delivery will be part of our future. Indeed, economical, fast and avoiding any traffic jams, they can be a real commercial asset for many brands and companies. But the city and buildings will need to adapt. For example, the legislation of cities will have to provide for legislation concerning fly zones and the control of UAVs. Similarly, the buildings will have to set up simple devices to allow the landing of drones and the safe delivery of products.


Manon Lhomme completed her studies in 2017 with a master in architecture and landscape design from Strasbourg’s Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture. This project thesis was made after her four months’ experience in Milan. She is currently working at Studio Fuksas in Roma as architect since 2018.