It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envisage how the home of the Olympic athletes at the next Milan-Cortina Games will look. After the games are over, the area, which comprises the residences, co-working spaces, open public spaces, and a large central park, will be used as student accommodation. Today a busy construction site, the former Porta Romana railyards is the starting point of one of the largest changes ever to the face of Milan – an urban redevelopment project that will reconnect the center of the city to its metropolitan hinterland. This long process is more or less at the halfway point between Italy being chosen to host the next Winter Olympics and completing construction of the village. Over the last few months, however, a number of fundamental milestones have been reached. In September, for example, after the reclamation of the site was completed, the Porta Romana investment fund (managed by COIMA and underwritten by Covivio, Prada Holding, and the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund) announced the beginning of excavations and the construction of the Olympic Village (to be completed by July 31, 2025). Then, in late November, it announced the acquisition of the area from the FS Italiane Group for 18 million euros.
The first part of the masterplan for the former Porta Romana railyard will be the construction of the Olympic Village for Milan-Cortina 2026 – a small city that will host approximately 1.500 athletes from around the world in its almost fifteen-acre (60,000 m2) section of the brownfield site. The apartments, as well as the large open spaces and common areas, will be returned to the community once the event is over, with the village itself being converted into student accommodation, with the same number of beds, living, and study spaces, during the 2026 academic year. And it will be self-sufficient, with onsite greenhouses and vegetable gardens providing food for sale in onsite shops. This will involve remodeling the function of the buildings and squares, but continuing their new role as a living community space after years of disuse.
The project, the work of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – SOM, places a major emphasis on sustainability, with 30% of energy produced by solar panels, over 50% of rainwater to be reused, and CO2 emissions from heating and cooling reduced by around 40% against the average.
This project, which responds to the requirements of both the sporting event and future needs, has been made possible through collaboration between the public and private sectors – that is, the Municipality of Milan, the Lombardy Region, and the Milano-Cortina Foundation. The principles of nZEB are being applied to the project, while also ensuring minimal conversion work between the two life phases of the complex and minimal environmental impact. Materials play a decisive role and have been selected for their sustainability, reuse, and eco-compatibility characteristics, making them a cornerstone of achieving LEED® certification.
Occupying over 50% of the site, the village’s green spaces were designed by architect Michel Desvigne in conjunction with Outcomist’s general masterplan for the site. GROUND UP is the name chosen by the innovative urban planning group led by Outcomist, Diller Scofido + Renfro, PLP Architecture and Carlo Ratti Associates and ARUP – who have worked together to conceive the vision of the Parco Romana Masterplan.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, globally renowned for their design of inclusive and democratic public spaces, will take particular focus in conceiving the innovative public realm of the masterplan. Lee Polisano of PLP Architecture, leaders in the urban planning and architectural design of large-scale developments, will bring expertise on residential planning to the team, striving to create the ‘future of living.’ Carlo Ratti’s work will leverage digital technologies as a component in reinventing urban areas and in shaping the future of places for work. Gross. Max., working with horticulturalist Nigel Dunnett, will collaborate on the Landscape. They will collaborate with Alejandro Gutierrez of Arup, who will lead infrastructure and sustainability. The group will be coordinated by Chris Choa of Outcomist, who will shape our collaboration and stategy.
Specialized consultants will support the core team. Systematica will conceive and plan for a diversity of mobility and transportation networks. Studio Zoppini and Aecom will address the issues and requirements of the Olympic Village. Our technical advisors are Land, who will assist with landscape, and Artelia, who will advise on issues related to architecture and engineering. Finally, Portland Design will lead the development of the brand and story for this important new district in Milan.
The construction of the Olympic Village and its subsequent conversion is, however, just one part of the masterplan for the entire Porta Romana area, which involves the redevelopment of 47 acres (190,000 m2) of brownfield site that will be completely traffic free. The green heart of the district will be a central park that will be completely open and whose highest point will correspond with the railway tunnel. Here a suspended forest will be created, linking the full length of the railway station to different areas of the park. But it will also function as an acoustic and visual buffer, screening the old railroad work.
Residences, offices, social housing, student housing, and services will be built around the park, connected to the rest of the metropolitan area via its railroad and subway lines. Besides the construction of the Olympic Village, COIMA will also oversee the construction of subsidized housing and the transformation of the Olympic Village into a student residence with rent-controlled accommodation. Funding for the project will be provided through the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund.
Although still just a construction site, the Olympic spirit behind the entire project is already clear.
Location: Milan, Italy
Architects: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – SOM
Completion: in progress
Render by and courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill – SOM