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milan as a backdrop

Park Associati

milan as a backdrop
By Valerio Paolo Mosco -

In the 1950s, writer, journalist and artist Leo Longanesi wrote, in typical caustic style: “Milan believes it is Milan. Rome knows it is Rome”. Still today, while complacent arrogant Rome slips further into decline, Milan continues to believe it is Italy’s go-ahead city, a belief that has paid off, especially if we acknowledge that it has become something it was not before: a desirable city to live in. That cities have a soul is beyond doubt, and this soul transpires in its style. Although talking of a city’s style might seem - quite rightly - somewhat vague, it is a concept we nonetheless comprehend. And Milan definitely has its own style, or rather has recently re-discovered it has one. In the 1930s, the Novecento style was stoutly championed by Margherita Sarfatti and Mario Sironi. Then Gio Ponti added a slightly more frivolous touch, an insouciance that never, however, fell into the trap of kitsch. After the war, came the gently eccentric sobriety of architects like BBPR, Asnago and Vender, Gardella, Albini, and Caccia Dominioni, worthy representatives of an efficient progressive bourgeoisie equally at home in the city’s elegant salons and pragmatic business circles. This was the time of the so-called School of Milan, a movement that although never precisely defined, was nonetheless clearly recognizable. Subsequently, the late 1960s saw the arrival of mass culture and its natural follow-on: young people’s revolt against the established order. The excellent books by Ettore Sottsass let us into the alternative “salon” created by him and his wife Fernanda Pivano and frequented by the likes of Bob Dylan and the big names in pop art. These were the years when Milan became the capital of a very special kind of design, rooted in technical rigueur but at the same time tongue-in-cheek almost to the point of provocation. During the same period, Giorgio Grassi and Aldo Rossi were turning architecture into a mystique that...

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