With a masterplan entitled Campo Selvatico (Wild field), OUTCOMIST has won the competition for the redevelopment of Milan’s ex–Porta Romana rail depot, the future site of the Olympic Village for the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics.
OUTCOMIST – Diller Scofidio + Renfro, PLP Architecture, Carlo Ratti Associati, Gross. Max, Nigel Dunnett Studio, Arup, Portland Design, Systematica, Studio Zoppini, Aecom, Land, Artelia
The competition, organized by Coima, Covivio, and Prada Holding, in arrangement with the FS Group, attracted submissions from no fewer than 47 groups comprising 329 companies from 14 nations. The six finalists included BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group e Skidmore, and Owings & Merrill, with all submissions highly varied and of excellent quality.
The project represents a huge opportunity for building the future of Milan. As Giuseppe Sala, Milan’s mayor, pointed out, we all have our own ideas about this city, and so we should. But having a vision of the future is even more important at this time.
If we look at what’s happening in both our community and communities abroad, we see cities that are greener, more sustainable, more livable, and with everything in closer reach, with all of this informed by basic adaptations to the peculiarities of each place.
Giuseppe Sala, mayor of Milan
Milan is an important city but it’s not particularly big. The gamble the organizers are taking, therefore, won’t necessarily pay off. The masterplan reveals, however, the will of the whole community to move from words to action – to take a step towards that modern, polycentric concept of cities that’s become a prime objective of Milan’s development in coming years. The project brings all these different threads together, transforming Milan into a new, modern, and green city in the mold of Carlos Moreno’s 15-Minute City.
I like to think that this district will become a neighborhood for young families.
Giuseppe Sala, mayor of Milan
The transformation of Milan’s railyards will change the face of the city over the next 15 years, connecting isolated areas and reenergizing previously undeveloped ones. The capital’s seven rail depots are being converted to seven parks, reimagining Milan as a city in which infrastructure development goes hand in hand with the development of public and green spaces.
Manfredi Catella, CEO and founder of COIMA, points out that the project for the redevelopment of Milan’s Porta Romana railyard is a symbol of reconstruction and innovation. The challenge is to transform the rail depot into an extraordinary neighborhood…
… that, through a deep commitment to sustainability and innovation, interprets and anticipates the evolution of the city to generate beauty and inclusiveness.
Manfredi Catella, CEO and founder of COIMA
A fundamental element of the masterplan is the future conversion of the Olympic Village into student apartments, based on a new residential model. This won’t be simple dormitory-style accommodation, but a lively neighborhood that’s integrated with services, art, culture, and co-working that will attract everyone.
All of the finalists showed enormous creativity in the very different ways they met the five key criteria of the competition – namely, respecting the overall morphology of the site; the inclusion of green and public spaces; the development of an “green system”; innovative strategies for reducing greenhouse gases and promoting energy savings; and, finally, a sustainable and integrated transport plan.
Jury president Gregg Jones, design principal of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, announced that the winning project was Campo Selvatico, submitted by OUTCOMIST, during a live webcast on scaloportaromana.com.
This isn’t the end of the process, but the beginning of a future development. The real winner of the competition is Milan and its people, who’ve been given a great opportunity to reinvent themselves and reimagine the future.
Jury president Gregg Jones, design principal of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Turning traditional urban paradigms on their head, the project makes a large green space the generative force of the entire development. Reconnecting the city to the north and south of the site, the project envisages an urban development that’s very clear in terms of its strategy, form, and function, while hypothesizing the reuse of certain buildings – memories of the industrial history of the location. Connecting east to west, this green space will stimulate further railroad mitigation projects.
Also speaking live, architect and engineer Carlo Ratti, founding partner of Carlo Ratti Associati, a part of the OUTCOMIST group, describes the future masterplan for the Porta Romana rail depot.
Porta Romana is an important hub, lying at the center of Milan’s ecological and urban networks.
The project unites the two souls of this part of the city: the natural one and the artificial one. Moving from east to west, the office buildings to the left give way to a residential district. Then comes the large park, which connects the city from north to south. Finally, you come to the Olympic Village, whose position has been worked out to maximize its functional efficiency.
The green spaces were the main focus of the masterplan.
They occupy two areas: the north-south central park and the long “green line,” which runs east-west across the entire site. The green line was inspired by New York’s High Line, but will be a full-fledged suspended forest and quite unique.
The ground level of the entire project hosts an enormous variety of functions. This diversified set of activities and services encourages mobility with connections to other parts of the city, therefore moving Milan towards the 15-minute model. The project also encompasses major pedestrian links along with enhanced public transport.
Other important aspects of Campo Selvatico are the ability to predict, from the outset, integration between physical and architectural components and their interdependence with digital networks. When the area comes to life in 2026 for the Olympics, it will also be an opportunity to use the public areas for temporary installations in what will be the symbolic center of Milan’s reboot. Finally, the winning architects’ project encourages the use of wood for all structures as part of their commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.
The competition held for the design of Milan’s new Olympic Village attracted 27 groups, made up of 71 studios, from nine nations. The design of the Olympic Village area was entrusted to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – SOM, the studio that ranked second in the competition for the masterplan. The Olympic Village will comprise low, harmoniously spaced buildings and will be integrated with local services to create a new city district with something to offer people of every age, including through the creation of pedestrian spaces and squares. The complex will also be well connected with other new areas currently under development near the railyard.
Planned for a quadrant southwest of the railyard so as to provide access to existing infrastructure and for the overall balance of the district, the site covers around fifteen acres (60,000 m2). It will be home to the athletes’ village for the 2026 Winter Olympics. Then, when the games are over, it will be converted by COIMA SGR into student housing.
Collaboration between the public and private sectors – including the Fondazione Milano-Cortina, the City of Milan, and the Lombardy Region – has made it possible to design the Olympic Village to specifically respond to the needs of its users both during and after the competition, while creating a zero environmental impact village according to Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) standards .
From day-one, the project was developed with its post-Olympics life in mind, so that the spaces and services designed for the athletes will seamlessly flip over into the future neighborhood, minimizing conversion work and environmental impacts. The materials used for the Olympic Village will be chosen for their sustainability (recyclability, reusability, and environmental friendliness). Every building will have LEED® certification and will be permanent, while the temporary structures will be reusable. Over thirty percent of electrical energy will be generated by solar thermal and photovoltaic systems. Rainwater will be collected and reused, resulting in a reduction in the use of potable water of over fifty percent, with a forty percent reduction in CO2 emissions from heating/cooling.
To convert the complex from its function during the Olympics to student accommodation in just four months, the Olympic Village will be transformed into a sustainable urban laboratory for experimentation focused on people, community, integration, and resilience. It will be a vibrant ecosystem made up of student housing, residences, co-working spaces, business services, and public areas. It will be a place for exchange and discussion in the city, attracting young people, business people, and micro-companies, who’ll be able to interact, experiment, and share. The area will be managed via a digital platform that will monitor the performance of the buildings as well as community interactions, with a digital twin envisaged for the site.
Greenhouses and vegetable gardens are also planned, setting the scene for the area to become the first student village that uses zero-kilometer products. The athletes’ apartments will not only be reused as student housing (about a thousand beds) but also as accommodation for visiting professionals outside the academic year. The buildings on the park and railroad side of the Olympic square will be used for free and subsidized housing. The Olympic Village Plaza will become the neighborhood’s town square, flanked by the shops and businesses at street level in the surrounding buildings. It might also be used as a space for farmers’ markets and other events.
The complex is being developed as a continuation of the surrounding urban fabric. Permeability between open and public spaces will make it possible for the community to take advantage of the new areas as they integrate with the existing ones. Mixed-use and ancillary services will bring the neighborhood to life. Through collaboration with local associations and businesses, recreational and cultural activities will create community in this new hub for Milan.
Render courtesy of OUTCOMIST, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, PLP Architecture, Carlo Ratti Associati, Gross. Max, Nigel Dunnett Studio, Arup, Portland Design, Systematica, Studio Zoppini, Aecom, Land, Artelia
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