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Snapshot 21

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.

Metro station, Milan


Metro Station

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.

View from the Piazza del Duomo. Can you find Sean?

View from the Piazza del Duomo. Can you find Sean?

The north facade clearly articulates the pink marble common in Milan.

The north facade expresses the pink marble common in Milan. I love the clouds in the glass.

Museo del Novecento juxtapose with Duomo

Horizontal reeding articulate the columns.

A view inside the glass encased spiral.

A view of the spiral ramp inside the glass skin.

Museo del Novecento interior view of Duomo

Museo del Novecento interior

Main gallery hall, with marble columns and plaster detailed ceiling.

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.



The vertical forest of Bosco Verticale, one of the new high-rise buildings in the Porto Nuova district.

Vine Covered home, Milan

Building, Milan Building, Milan Building, Milano

Mario Botta's lovely two additions to la Scala...hidden from street view, but creating a presence on the skyline.

Mario Botta’s lovely two additions to la Scala…hidden from street view, but creating a presence on the skyline.

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.

Building with elaborte ceiling sculpture

Entry though this building’s gate reveals a rich sculptural ceiling.

Building with elaborte ceiling sculpture, detail

Faux bricks add sculptural relief in plaster.

Faux bricks add sculptural relief in plaster.

Sforzesco Castle, Milan

Interior palace at Sforzesco Castle.

Original frescos in Sforzesco Castle.

Original frescos in Sforzesco Castle.

Wall detailing.

Wall detailing.

Tile at the gay bar...sort of Keith Herring-esque.

Tile at the gay bar…sort of Keith Haring-esque.

Alabaster mosaic flooring, Villa Necchi

Alabaster mosaic flooring at Villa Necchi.

Building gate

Building gate exemplifies restrained modernism.

Building lobby, a great directional device or bathroom shower stall

Curved marble wall-sculpture guides one to the building’s entrance. This would be great as a shower enclosure in a bathroom.

David Bjørngaard, October 2015

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