Paneropoli is the name that Foscolo- an italian writer of the 18th century- gives to the city of Milan. It is litterally the city of “panèra”, the lombardian name of cream, which was a wealthy ingredient of the italian cousine .
In this scenario, Milan is conceived as a rich and opulent city where the bourgeoisie meets in the middle – class homes, eating chocolate, drinking coffee and alcool. This fact explains the fertility of Milan and its strategical position at the center of the Northen part of Italy, the obvious connection with Switzerland and with the Northen Europe.
Milan has always been the place where to sell products, raw materials and food since its fundation done by the Romans. With the Middle Age there where hundreds of markets selling products coming from all over Europe. With the growth of the city, particularly after the Second World War, Milan lost this connection with its agricolture and with the importance of selling them through the Markets. People started appreciating the easy and fast way of buying products at the supermarket instead of expiriencing the relation that the Market – Archetype creates in between humans. Eventhough the Municipality has built 20 public markets for Milan, they have never been central in the inhabits lives. Moreover, their public and urban space was not designed at all: because of the povery of the war, they had to be built quickly and with and economically.
Paneropoli Plus starts from this assumption: why not give a new life to this ancient food system, to this important network of people selling and buying food? Why not reshaping the architecture and the public spaces surronding the exhisting markets?
The project starts from a large scale perspective: a system of bikelines is linking the Markets with the “Cascine” and with the Milanese agricultural area, following the path of the “Navigli”, the rivers which were giving water to the city. Secondly, the projects aims to redesign one particular case study: the Wagner Market has a strategical position in the historical center. This was the road connecting Milan with Brianza and until the beginning of the 19th century there was a plaza right in front of the church entrance.
The Re-thinking of this architecture aims to give a new public space, in order to be a plaza again, linking the edges of surrounding space.
The Plaza is composed by an amphiteatre facing the entrance of the church. Moreover, two courtyards are connecting the level of the city with the digged market. This public space is indeed conceived as an extention of the urban paving. This creats two different facades: one facing the Strip is transparent and it draws the attention of the passersby, the other one is opaque and it relates with the Plaza.
The Market plan is composed by a big free space at the center which gives the accesses to some complementary spaces facing it. A system of trusses is supporting the ampthiteatre and the interior open space.
What prompted the project?
As the German philosopher Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach said, “ Man is what he eats”: with this sentence he underlines the importance of alimentation in every culture and the strict connection in between the act of eating and the community its self. Eating and buying food are specific ways in which a society shows its self.
In this sense, the Roman Market is the Archetype, the first example, of a coincived architecture made for sharing, buying and selling food. It was the place in which the merchants could sell the products of their hard work, directly to their own community, living the passing of the seasons.
Nowadays people appreciate more the easy and fast way of buying products at the supermarket instead of expiriencing the relation that the Market – Archetype creates in between humans: this relation between men and food and the connection that links producers to buyiers is lost, overrun by supermarkets and hypermarkets which are selling quantity instead of quality, generating a surreal space as it is shown in the famous photo of Andreas Gursky – 99 Cent II Diptycon.
With the growth of the city, particularly after the Second World War, Milan lost this connection with its agricolture and with the importance of selling them through the Markets.
Eventhough the Municipality has built 20 public markets for Milan, they have never been central in the inhabits lives. Moreover, their public and urban space was not designed at all: because of the povery of the postwar period, they had to be built quickly and economically.
What informed the reflection on Paneropoli? How important is the work of Foscolo to you?
Paneropoli is the name that Ugo Foscolo – an italian writer of the 18th century – gives to the city of Milan. It is litterally the city of “panèra”, the lombardian name of cream, which was a wealthy ingredient of the italian cousine . In this scenario, Milan is conceived as a rich and opulent city where the bourgeoisie meets in the middle – class homes, eating chocolate, drinking coffee and alcool. This fact explains the fertility of Milan and its strategical position at the center of the Northen part of Italy, the obvious connection with Switzerland and with the Northen Europe, since the Middle Age when houndrads of markets were spread all over the city.
When I started focusing on this project, I found Foscolo’s description essential to my research, because it let me understand the central role of the city I was analyzing and its background.
Starting from that point I collected study materials which were confirming the sentence of Foscolo: Milan was just the perfect italian example to show how food is important to life and in general to a community, a culture and a city. Finally, I wanted to underline that “what we eat” shapes our cities, our public spaces and the architecture were this all happens.
What about the street markets which on the other hand are a great aspect within the food network of the city? What relationship do they maintain with agriculture and the countryside? How does the project respond to these?
Selling food in a city takes place both outdoor and indoor, it is both “informal” and “formal”.
The “informal” street market phoenomena is something that the project doesn’t need to prevent. The street markets are part of our life as the fixed and “formal” architecture of the Markets. They both enrich the panorama of the food experience. While the privilege of architecture is to give stability, identity and a specific volume where to collect a certain amount of merchants and products, street markets can adapt with their temporary nature, being “liquid” and adaptable.
These two characteristics – fixity and mutability – live together in Paneropoli Plus. Indeed, the public spaces surronding the new designed markets are the places where the citizens can meet but also the spots where the street markets can have their daily activity.
The permanent architecture doesn’t aim to destroy the movable one.
What mediums characterised the research phase?
Reading books about the history of Milan and in particular “Nutrire Milano” by Lucia Basile and “Milano – costruzione di una città” by Giuseppe De Finetti, were fundamental in order to understand the background of the city and, the role of its markets and the mutations happened with the passing of the centuries.
Furthermore, Qgis and the urban tools helped me in studying the developments of the city: how the commercial areas were composed, were to find shopping centers, the dispositions of the markets designed in the 50’s, the importance of the infrastructure and in particular of the railroad in the growth of the ambrosian area. Finally, it was useful to study the material given by the Municipality in order to understand the guidelines, the targets and the problems of Milan. Both the history and the current events partecipated to the development of Paneropoli Plus which is something more than the 18th century Paneropoli, it is an enrichment of it.
How was the drawing as tool used and explored throughout the development of the project? What role does the Map play in the communication of the project?
My first attempt was to focus on the Masterplan of Milan. When you draw a map, a cartography, both by hand and with the advice of the computer, you are struggling with the act of drawing: sometimes it is difficult to convey an idea of a city with the only use of colours and patterns. You need to be minimal and essential at the same time, you need to be able to enlight the layers that are clearly useful to express your project. Paneropoli’s Map was continuisly developed with the passing of time during my research and it has been always the footprint of the following phases of the project, until the design of the Wagner Market. Everything, from the big picture of the city, to the network of bike lanes, and to the composition of Wagner Plaza is linked in between each other in an urban project that has to be the base of everything.
Taking Superstudio and Archizoom as references,at the beginning of my research I started to imagine an utopian Milan controlled by food corporations, where the streets were having the names of objects to buy and the city was based on materialistic values. When I first draw Paneropoli’s map I started looking at the cartography of the 80’s. Then the Masterplan of Paneropoli Plus was a concequence of continuos revisions of this first example.
In conclusion, this first drawing helped me in being essential, in choosing a certain palette of colours and patterns in order to be pure and right in what I wanted to show and design. The drawing as tool is fundamental for the architect both to express his idea and to be understood by everyone.
What informed the choice of drawings, how do they talk and reveal this new public space?
The axonometric drawings had an important role in explaining my project and in general this idea of public space, of a new welfare architecture given to the city of Milan.
Axos can be really useful while showing urban dynamics. They can convey a sense of density, of urban life in general and at the same time they can show the relations with the facades, with the heights of the buildings, all important datas while studying a city. The ratios behind streets and facades are giving the real image of the city. In that sense it is fallacious to study a city with the only tool given my the cartography and the “top view” in general.
Finally, the collage was helpful to show the choice of materials and the link between the surrondings and the project: as you can notice from the images, this new architecture, rising from the ground, both generate the public space of the new Wagner Plaza and the hypogeum market.
Where do you see the future of the market in relation to companies as amazon? Could amazon potentially re-activate this missing link?
My vision of the topic is quite drastic: a corporation can’t be a link between a specific territory and its inhabitants. Markets are the places where the particularity of a certain area of the world is shown, it is the place where its raw materials and its people are meeting each other, generating culture of alimentation and society. Buying food and cooking are a matter of tasting, touching, feeling colours, smelling products.
This material and sensorial aspect is something that the immateriality of the e-commerce will never be able to give to people. It is just not replaceble.
What is for you the architects most important tool?
As the photographer, a good architect – to me – is able to see things and phoenomena which are invisible to the mass of people. Architects can read spaces, human behaviours, the genius loci of a city, understanding its substrate. Architects can also stand up for the rights of the communities in which they are operating, giving them a vision in order to make the world better.
The role of the architect to me is both technical and political: while designing you are both modelling masses and, in a way, changing the world.
Alessandra Peracin graduated at Università IUAV di Venezia in 2018 with her thesis “Paneropoli Plus”. She has also studied at the UPC-ETSAB in Barcelona in 2017.
She has previously worked in Bjarke Ingels Group in New York City and in demogo, a young italian firm. She is now teaching assistant at Università Iuav di Venezia.