Milano MegaWatt_Utopia vs Dystopia
Sonia Kwiatkowska, Elia Fontani, Margherita Gistri & Paul Jeanteur
First year of Masters course, Politecnico di Milano, Town Planning Design Workshop – Urbanism & Urban Design by prof. Stefano Boeri.
Humankind is facing, in our days, a new geological Era, the Anthropocene, period massively demarked by the unrestrained exploitation of natural resources that is determining now, such as in the future, several environmental problems.
The project is a proposition of how the future may look like in the year 2117. Milano Mega Watt proposes an experimental way of dwelling, placed in Scali Milano – the abandoned railway system, trying to balance the cohabitation between mankind, nature and animals. It offers an innovative possibility of coexistence that might generate, at the same time, both improvements to the daily life both worrisome results. Hence, in this hypothetical and provocative vision the border between utopia and dystopia seems to be absolutely weak.
Assuming the future necessity of being self-sufficient in order to have the possibility of provide to ourselves, each yard is going host a massive structure becoming a new landmark for Milan. “Boosting the city” is the main role of these experimental spaces, offering vital services for people in order to answer to the huge loss of resources that humankind is going to face. This structure could be considered as a “city in the city”, proposing itself like a source of life.
Milano Mega Watt creates an alternative way of dwelling, and it is able to produce, collect and improve the city in terms of energy. In order to reach the selfsufficiency the building should balance an equilibrium between the number of inhabitants that might live there and the amount of primary needs that they could manage to lead. Therefore, defining at a first time the primary vital needs of one single person, it was possibile to determine the dimension of the building and, subsequently, to manage the relationship between these various spaces. The idea is to design hybrid solutions, generated by the merging of needs related with human activities (housing, education, commercial, production, infrastructures, health) combined with natural entities able to feed and provide to people’s surviving (farming, livestock, water storage). The result is a series of eighteen different typologies of hypothetical livable spaces.
The project develops imaginary spaces, beginning from archetypical shapes, creating a real energetic battery in each yard, giving power to Milan.
Who influences you graphically?
Our whole design process had been challenged by a question do we want to show an utopian or dystopian project? That influenced the graphical way in which we demonstrated the project. We have been inspired by many works of art, but the biggest impact on our work had been made by Andy Warhol, Luis Barràgan, and James Stirling. Their mastery in using colour and texture inspired us to create our vision. What is more, the exhibition of the US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale entitled “The Architectural Imagination” has been a constant reference for our design.
What defined the graphic language of the proposal?
The aforementioned question about the character of our design has been omnipresent – whether the project is utopian or dystopian? Is it showing bright future or grim consequences of human todays demeanour?
The ongoing deforestation, tremendous dependency to fossil energy, and overpopulation would finally lead to annihilation of the fragile equilibrium between humankind and nature. As a consequence, citizens would need to adapt to the new conditions, modifying daily habits in order to survive in the future scenario of the Anthropocene era.
Our design faces the change and, in this terms, it is a positive solution for future dwelling. However it would not be used unless the condition of our planet is dramatic.
The Milano Mega Watt proposes an experimental way of dwelling, trying to balance the cohabitation between mankind and nature. It offers an innovative possibility of coexistence. Hence, in this hypothetical and provocative vision the border between utopia and dystopia seems to be absolutely thin. Therefore, we chose to emphasize the morphological aspects of the buildings. The buildings are placed in the contemporary fabric of city of Milan but in contrary they show how, in the future, the area might look like. This might be understood as a parallel – today’s behaviour of world’s inhabitants may lead to the necessity of using this kind of dwelling. Our language of representation was determined by the purpose of the project itself. It needed to be strong and effective to, from the first sight, present the future as a consequence of nowadays situation. We wanted the message to be clear: ‘this is our future. Are we happy with it?’.
What dictated the colour palette?
The colors we have chosen play a crucial role in the representation of the project. The colour palette has been based on the illustration style of the 80’s, where black combined with bright, eye catching, colors were main characters of the design. We used similar method in our drawings to emphasize the futuristic character of our design. The juxtaposition of colorful planes in the drawing of the 18 typologies represents its identity and importance to the whole design.
The typologies had been designed as objects that would be able to satisfy the basic needs of human beings such as access to fresh water or fresh food. After we merged those needs into hybrids that provides at least two of the basic needs we defined the shape of the typologies and their colour representation to be strong and eye-catching.
You neglect to show a potential context for the proposal in 2117, why so? How will the building relate to its context and how do you see Milan growing and developing in the next 100 years?
After we had analysed the city of Milan we started to perceive it as a dissipative system that uses energy and materials from external sources and produce a huge amount of waste and emissions. Our goal was to change it into an equilibrated system where inputs and outputs would be balanced. The city can be represented as an energy circuit, consisting of active connections and centers of aggregations. It is evident that this complex system suffers today due to the discontinuity. It is caused by the presence of the railway belt where seven abandoned yards seem to generate a vulnerable gap. In our vision they have the potential to become a set of “batteries”, energetic tools that would be able to contain a large variety of functions and innovative spaces, creating a totally new conception of sustainable dwelling. We assumed that future neighbourhoods would be self-sufficient. Each yard would host one of the massive structures – the new Milanese landmark. These structures could be considered as “cities within the city”, composed of the aggregation of hybrid architectural typologies, sized and placed depending on the number of people that are supposed to live there in the future. Hence we decided not to involve a possible change of the Milanese consolidated urban fabric in our project. The main reason was that we are not able to foresee future of the surroundings. Moreover the neighbourhood areas would not have impact on the projects which is totally independent.
What is your take on the ‘landmark’- do we really still necessitate these kind of buildings?
Cities have always needed “landmarks”. People desire symbols in their surroundings, they need to perceive the identity and the memory given by architectural icons. Landmarks has always been used to express an intrinsic message, whether it is social, political or economical. As the ancient Milanese rampart system of the city used to do in the past, the renovated railway belt would divide and join distinct entities with the same act. Thus, each yard would be identified as a monumental gate, a space of threshold, a place of synthesis where opposites find a common meaning, with its own identity represented by a core building. Architecture is an effective means of communication and we affirm the need for a new message.
Elia Fontani is a master’s degree student in Architecture at Politecnico of Milan, graduated with a bachelor’s degree at University of Florence.
Margherita Gistri is currently attending the master’s degree program in Architecture at Politecnico of Milan, after obtaining the Bachelor at the University of Florence.
Paul Jeanteur obtained a sa bachelor’s degree at the school of architecture in Lille. He get passionate for the relation of architecture and city during summer school at the Architecture association school. With a friend he won a prize at the international Wilmotte architecture competition (Prix W2016) for the project Functional scaffolding. He had the opportunity to join a design workshop studio with professor Stefano Boeri during an Erasmus program at Politecnico di Milano.
Sonia Kwiatkowska is an artist. In 2015 she won the first prize and a Grand Prix in a student competition designing a Media Library in Tarnów. The success made her take the chances in attending a Design Workshop Studio with professor Stefano Boeri during an Erasmus program at Politecnico di Milano. She is one of the authors of Milano MegaWatt. At present she is taking part in several architecture competitions and finishing her master’s thesis at Krakow’s University of Technology.