A Walk in Sesto San Giovanni

Former Falck Areas

Andrea Bulloni and Francesca Villa exploring the site of the Former Falck Area.

The transformation of the former Falck steelworks in Sesto San Giovanni (Milan) is now a major urban redevelopment project in Italy and one of the largest in Europe, encompassing 1.5 million square meters. Andrea Bulloni and Francesca Villa show us around the construction area.

 

The most interesting question is to understand how to become part of this march of time and take ad-vantage of it in terms of sustainability and the environment.

A Collective Project where Nature Reclaims its Space

Andrea: This area has a very distinct history, not only for Sesto San Giovanni, but for all of Italy, as it was a very important part of the Italian metalworking industry. The true theme of this redevelopment is that Falck was created with the idea of becoming an actual company town, where people lived and worked. The concept was a bit reminiscent of Olivetti.

Parco Unione is composed of three pre-existing areas, which are Omec, T3, and the Treno Laminatoio building, where we are now, which were the three macro-containers for Falck’s industrial activity. Due to the urban development structure of the Falck master plan, which Foster+Partners developed along with us and other members of the team, it to some extent retraces the idea of this historic quasi-city with its close-knit atmosphere, courtyards, services, and green areas.

Francesca: It still hasn’t been determined what these old industrial areas will look like as they’re revitalized. These buildings have a wealth of history: they’re architecturally iconic and a symbol of their time, and they will certainly become the heart of the redevelopment of these areas.

What we know for sure is that it will be “landscape first,” because the landscape is what exists now. Timelines are quite long for such extensive transformation processes, and local entities, the municipality, the community that’s linked to its historic heritage, play a fundamental role. The processes for redeveloping buildings and public spaces in Parco Unione are intrinsically intertwined. The Park, which has already been approved, will become the driving element, triggering processes of mutual interdependence.

Dimension, Emotion, Human Scale

Francesca: It’s really exciting to come to a place like this. You can see the hidden potential of places you’ve maybe gone by thousands of times, paying no attention, and now you see that they conceal a new piece of the city.

A project like Falck requires you to address the demands and needs of the community, helping it to reclaim these areas.

Andrea: You never know how these spaces will relate to the human scale. As a practical exercise, after creating a preliminary rough draft of the project, we came here with worksite flags and started to lay out the first public squares, large rectangles to see whether the size we had envisioned was actually correct. This required us to be there and to get to know the local area, to be able to come to the site to understand its dynamics and dimensions.

A Shared Process Encourages the Role of the Landscape Architect 

Francesca: A whole group of people comes into play when you have such a large-scale project. From clients to master planners, city planners, engineers, to us, the landscape architects, everyone has contributed and will contribute to creating a process that translates into a collective project.

And Nature? It comes back on its own

Francesca: The former Falck areas have amazingly vigorous vegetation, with shrubs and trees growing spontaneously on the site.

Andrea: It’s interesting to see that even for us, the landscape continues to change every time we come here. Once again, it shows us how these industrial skeletons remain firmly impressed in memory and history, while the surrounding nature continues to change. The most interesting question is to understand how to become part of this march of time and take advantage of it in terms of sustainability and the environment.

Text: Christiane Bürklein

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