On the edge of Milan, Cascina Merlata is taking shape. A polycentric city of residences, services and public spaces, in the greenery of a vast park. We talk about it with Patricia Viel co-founder of the ACPV studio and co-author of the master plan

A city within a city. In spite of Covid and respecting the timeline of the interventions, in Cascina Merlata, a suburb to the north-west of Milan, a very complex area divided into multiple lots, 11, defined in an alphanumeric way from R1 to R11, urban regeneration continues and the cranes have completed the construction work of Lot R7 / 2 as indicated in the masterplan. The one intended for the housing complex with special agreements, two new towers between via Daimler and via Pier Paolo Pasolini: a total area of 2,600 square meters and 750 housing units already accessible to residents since last March. We talk about it with Patricia Viel co-founder of ACPV, the studio that designed it according to the guidelines and principles of social and environmental sustainability at the basis of the 2011 masterplan signed by ACPV together with the studio of Paolo Caputo.

Architect Viel, you and Antonio Citterio are known everywhere as luxury designers. What does it mean for a studio like ACPV to have designed the Cascina Merlata complex of buildings in subsidized housing?

Working on a project of this scale means designing the city and specifically from our point of view it has meant bringing attention back to the relationship with the quality of the things we do: an intrinsic value of the building regardless of its economic value. The so-called conventioned building is very important for Milan because it is also accessible to the less tributaries. It is especially so when, as in this case, it is absolutely comparable in type and character to the standard one, in terms of executive quality in detail, performance and reduction in consumption.

We are talking about buildings that have class A energy certification, use geothermal energy for heating and photovoltaic roofing, benefit from interesting services. Green covers have been provided on all parking plates that generate condominium roof gardens and the parking area contains spaces for charging hybrid and electric vehicles. The difference is always made by the ability of construction companies and suppliers. In this sense, the collaboration with C.M.B. o with Marazzi for the porcelain stoneware façades, it was also very stimulating for us: it demonstrates how it is possible to build a city for everyone of a good standard integrated with a territory which includes boulevards, cycle paths, sidewalks, trees and greenery. The interesting aspect of this moment is in fact that with Lot R7 / 2 the masterplan as defined in 2011 is completely taking shape and an entire block consisting of several blocks is taking shape.

In compliance with the masterplan consisting of buildings in line as the edges of the roads and tower buildings of varying heights, from 10 to 30 floors, all the designers participating in the Cascina Merlata project are working with great attention in attributing recognisability and identity to the individual artifacts on the linguistic and detail level."

Yes, we need to take a step back: look at the masterplan, the overview...

We must start from here, from coordinated planning, which has given the overall result that we have under our eyes: a new center capable of aggregating with the green of the park between the two wings of residences, on the right and on the left, where the citizen has - within 15 minutes walking distance - everything you need: home, services and transport. This major intervention that builds a complex city village on the edge of the city does so with a very particular vision of the role of the masterplan: that of helping to build an identity by interpreting the urban characteristics that were already present in the area. Let's not forget that we are on via Gallarate where the social housing projects of the past are today considered among the most virtuous, such as the Gallaratese district. The character of a city for families was confirmed and used by the project to make people feel a very intimate relationship with the context, a sense of community and belonging to the place. In Merlata there are only residences but the size around them is very varied.

We are a stone's throw from the Fiera Milano district and the MIND Milano Innovation District, the former Expo Milano area. It is no coincidence that the park was created first and the buildings afterwards. We are talking about 250 thousand square meters of green in an area of ​​more than half a million square meters. A very special way of operating. The other aspect is density: urban living for us is made up of large densities and distances. Both must exist and the masterplan returns this character: we have designed roads with particular curves, shapes and perspectives. The distance between the two built-up edges of the area is given by the park which contrasts a high density with open spaces, livable and usable, integrated with services. A school complex is under construction, public transport serves the ring of Via Pasolini and the junction with the Molino Dorino metro line, a shopping center will also act as a filter for the railway infrastructure.

The so-called conventioned building is very important for Milan because it is also accessible to the less tributaries. It is especially so when, as in this case, it is absolutely comparable in type and character to the standard one, in terms of executive quality in detail, performance and reduction in consumption."

It is a very balanced project that collects interesting characters. Does this attention to the urban landscape distinguish only your intervention?

No, not just our intervention. In compliance with the masterplan consisting of buildings in line as the edges of the roads and tower buildings of varying heights, from 10 to 30 floors, all the designers participating in the Cascina Merlata project are working with great attention in attributing recognisability and identity to the individual artifacts on the linguistic and detail level. There is a great textile variation of the elevations that is declined in the creation of outdoor spaces, balconies and terraces. This common effort belongs to an area of ​​transition between public and private which is represented by the ground floor of each building with its services but also with its condominium gardens that are connected to the general lines of the park. An intermediate scale that the overall Merlata project is declining well in the calibrated relationships between the parties.