How citizens can design the city from below

A new exhibition at the Triennale in Milan explores the issues between urbanism and urbanity.

"Urban contexts often risk being inhospitable and not enabling for people who live in the city" says the curator of the new exhibition Milano Piano Zero at the Triennale in Milan. The exhibition collects nine works by artists that somehow lived Milan for a period, and through the works, the exhibition allows visitors to rethink the city in which they live. t-space studio

A large green plastic tent that people can pass through: we are not talking about a shop, we are referring to the beginning of the exhibition Milano Piano Zero curated by Giacomo Pigliapoco and Chiara Spagnol. The two curators manage to set up an exhibition within the Milan Urban Centre of Triennale that isn’t born to be an exhibition space. Nevertheless, the staging is balanced, and allows visitors to enjoy the exhibition in a clear way allowing them to interact with works. We met the two curators to deepen the various aspects of the exhibition.

What’s “Milano Piano Zero” about? 

Urban contexts often risk being inhospitable and not enabling for people who live in the city. This project brings attention and stimulate the awareness of citizens about the disconnect between urbanism and the way of living Milan. The exhibition collects nine works by artists that somehow lived Milan for a period, and through the works, the exhibition allows visitors to rethink the city in which they live.

The history of Milano 2 is the pretext to open the project, how it was represented in the exhibition?

The work “Due” by Riccardo Giacconi is the first of the entire exhibition: the failure of the project of Milano 2 district has raised the main problem between urbanism and urbanity as a result of the increasing depersonalization of the occidental cities.

What we see in the work by Giacconi is a large plastic tent that resembles those used in the butchers of small villages. The tent stands out for its color on which are engraved sixteen floor plans of residential apartments designed specifically for the neighborhood.

What should visitors expect from the works in the exhibition? 

Artists dealt different themes with a common purpose: telling the change of Milan to make visitors able to design a new type of city. For instance Giorgio Andreotta Calò reflects on the gentrification of the Lambrate neighborhood while Francesca Marconi underlines the importance of the identity of Via Padova and NoLo district and the belonging to it. 

The collective Zimmerfrei presents a vision of collective memory both objective and subjective through videos and the storytelling of the symbolic places of Milan (you can find the project also on Youtube).

g.olmo stuppia with few typical symbols of Milan, allows visitors to reflect on the growth of the city while Grazie Toderi offers visitors an intimate vision of the city.

g. olmo stuppia, Untitled (Se Milano ha trafitto il suo cuore), 2021. Courtesy of the artist. Photo t-space Studio.
Why did you decide to set up an archive as part of the exhibition? 

We thought about the exhibition as an opportunity and a functional tool for the visitors for the construction of a new model of contemporary city; the fact that we decided to make only a part of the archive available to them, makes this happen.
The archive presents texts of different levels: commercial books, catalogues, essays, but not just that. We experienced firsthand that the nonfiction research should be implemented with visual research: for this reason we presented “Istogrammi d’architettura” by Superstudio and works by Luca Galofaro and Panos Koulermos. 

What reaction do you expect from the audience after visiting the exhibition? 

Surely we don’t expect a physical revolution. We hope that the exhibition will draw the attention of visitors to the development of Milan according to individual and community needs. Every visitor can really redesign a new model of city by reclaiming the public space and give a participatory vision of living the city. 

How important was to producing this exhibition in a space like Triennale and how much this type of structure brings value to the city of Milan? 

Triennale was the ideal environment to develop this theme. This space is not just a museum: it is a transversal project accessible to citizens in all its forms. We could say that Triennale is a museum of the new generation: it is an open and permeable place that invites everyone to enjoy the space. It’s an environment that we call “fluid and open”, and that’s what makes brings wealth to a city from an urbanity point of view.

Jessica Capretti is a frequent contributor to Milano Art Guide since 2021. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and has worked on several projects including “L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, in Paris. She lives and works in Milan.