Via Fratelli Gabba 10 / Via Brera 28 - Milano
Run by the State University of Milan, the Botanical Garden of Brera bears witness to the work of protection and enhancement of historical, scientific and cultural heritage conducted by the University at Palazzo Brera. Today the Garden is utilized for educational and scientific activities, guided tours and many events open to the public.
A historic garden and a splendid open-air museum, founded in 1774 under the aegis of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. The Botanical Garden, located in the center of Milan inside the famous Brera complex that contains the Pinacoteca, the Biblioteca Braidense, the Fine Arts Academy, the Astronomical Observatory, occupies an area of about 5000 m2: a splendid green oasis featuring many different kinds of trees, as well as architectural elements like the 18th-century elliptical pools and the plots with their original bricks, now restored.
The garden began as a Hortus Oeconomicus similar to that of the Collegium Theresianum in Vienna. Due to its purpose of promotion of agriculture, the arts and the comforts of life, no exotic plants were included. The head of the Garden would teach Botany to the chemists and doctors of the Brera School. The Garden would also supply medicinal plants for the Brera Spezieria.
The project was assigned to Padre Fulgenzio Witman who had already designed a large Botanical Garden for the University of Pavia. The garden was divided into three main areas: an area with plots for all kinds of plants, in keeping with the classification of Linnaeus; an arboretum; and an area for greenhouses. The design of the latter was undoubtedly discussed with Piermarini, though it was implemented by Witman. In 1798 Witman compiled an inventory of the plants, listing besides “those in the ground that served for medicinal and culinary purposes” also those in a greenhouse, with 950 pots containing exotic species.
While in the Austrian period the aims were essentially educational, with the arrival of the French new ornamental plants were added, making the garden a gathering place for the people of the city. When the Austrians returned, in 1814, years of gradual abandonment continued until the creation of a unified Italy. First assigned to the Polytechnic, the Garden was later entrusted to the Regia Scuola Superiore di Agricoltura and then, in 1935, to the Istituto Superiore di Agricoltura, after which it passed to the State University of Milan, of which it is still a part.
After the conservative restoration of the two planting zones in 1999-2001, the garden was again opened for permanent public use. It was officially recognized as a Museum in 2005, first as the Museo Astronomico-Orto Botanico di Brera, as part of the overall program of renewal of the historical heritage of Palazzo Brera.
Starting in February 2018, it bears the name Museo Orto Botanico di Brera. A project of regeneration is now in progress for the arboretum, which covers about one third of the garden’s area and has not been involved in the restoration efforts to date. With the achievement of this work slated for the start of July 2018, the renovation of the Orto Botanico will be complete.
Alongside its original educational function, the Garden now also has a role in the protection of biodiversity and the raising of public awareness of endangered plant species. Many initiatives are organized for school groups and the public, and particular care has gone into making the facility accessible to the disabled.
THE RENOVATION PROGRAM
Starting in 2013, the State University, with the fundamental support of INTERNI and other partners (Rotary Club Milano, Amici di Brera) has launched a series of projects regarding various aspects the renovation of the Brera Botanical Garden (part of the Università degli Studi of Milan):
- Creation of paths for the sight-impaired (organized by the Botanical Garden with Rotary Club Milano), operative since 11 June 2013.
- New entrance from Via Fratelli Gabba (organized by Amici di Brera, project by the architect Ruggero Moncada), completed in collaboration of INTERNI and opened on 16 September 2013.
- Restoration of the education spaceinside the Botanical Garden (organized by INTERNI). Project by Luca Scacchetti. Completed at the end of October 2013 with the contribution of companies and institutions.
- The creation, in 2015, of the permanent lighting system designed by Piero Castiglioni, with the production support of iGuzzini (organized by INTERNI).
- Regeneration of the arboretum, in 2018, a project of Università degli Studi di Milano/Atelier De Molfetta Strode (curated by Università degli Studi di Milano, Orto Botanico di Brera and BeOpen/INTERNI).