The Brütta City

Modern Milan’s eclectic entrances and post-war reconstruction

Palazzo in via Paravia 37 by Umberto Riva, 1965 (pendant lamps and enameled metal door handles 374 by Umberto Riva) Photography Delfino Sisto Legnani

Milano Milano?” That was the question teenagers from Milan would ask when they met other Italian youngsters far from home. It would be heard, for example, during study trips to austere England in the 1970s. The question contained within it a mixture of curiosity and distrust. It meant: are you a true Milanese, or just a pretender, when in fact you come from Monza, Gallarate, Busto Arsizio or some other town?

As for me, I was a bona fide Milanese. Maybe too much! My Milan was very small and essentially meant the streets around the centre where my family lived. It was a zone that hadn’t yet become what my father, perhaps with some snobbery, would later define as “a duty-free store”. Though inhabited for the most part by the “upper” classes, the area was a mixture of private residences, monuments, schools and shops that made it a livelier neighbourhood than the commercialised zone it would later become. 

Very few of my classmates lived in the type of building pictured opposite – Palazzo in via Paravia 37, by Umberto Riva. Its striking design reminded you of the fact that examples of the Modern Movement – for which Milan is a veritable outdoor museum – are found not just in the centre of the city, but are scattered around its various neighbourhoods. 

Just consider the building by Gio Ponti and Alberto Rosselli on Viale Lunigiana, or the Corbellini-Wassermann house by Piero Portaluppi, a hidden gem on Viale Lombardia. The reason the city doesn’t have a concentrated district of the Modern Movement – unlike other periods such as Eclecticism and Art Nouveau (known as the Liberty style in Italy) – is clear: We are looking at a story that lasts about 50 years, from the 1920s to the 1970s, interrupted by World War II, during which Milan was bombed by the Allies. This break was followed by disorderly, feverish post-war reconstruction, which mixed up different epochs and styles, often on the same street.

We can be certain about the starting date of modern architecture in Milan. The Ca’ Brutta (literally “the ugly house”), begun in 1919 and completed in 1922, is a work by the architect Giovanni Muzio – still in his twenties at the time – who lived on the top floor of the building until his death in 1982. Why the term “ugly” (or brütta, in the Milanese spelling)? Because the people of Milan, accustomed to the gentle lines and ornament of Eclecticism and Art Nouveau, didn’t like it. Even Muzio himself, perhaps as a result, softened his approach a little in subsequent projects. But Milan was already known as an ugly city. It was described as such by the greatest Milanese writer of the 20th century, Carlo Emilio Gadda, who called it “ugly and uncoordinated”. Actually, Milan was the only large Italian city suited to welcoming modernity: Rome, Venice and Naples were full of palaces; in Florence the Renaissance still vied with the Middle Ages; in Bologna and Turin the porticoes concealed the facades. Furthermore, Milan was the first city in Italy to witness the rise of the business and professional bourgeoisie, overturning the age-old social order. The residents of Palazzo in via Paravia 37 came from that milieu – and it reflected the status of this new class.

Buildings such as these were defined by their entrances, which were eclectic in their construction materials, details (doors, floors, accessories, lighting), and decoration. Ignoring the rules of the Bauhaus, many artists adorned these entrance halls with a distinctive use of ‘humble’ ceramics. The most illustrious names are Fausto Melotti and Lucio Fontana, in the wake of the great master Adolfo Wildt. His ‘winged victory’ sculpture greets visitors to the Berri-Meregalli house on Via Cappuccini. Plants and greenery, in addition, often lent halls the feeling of impeccable morgues.

What is missing from this photograph is the everyday life of these spaces that people briefly pass through. The sovereign, of course, is (or was) the concierge, who was more often male than female, and usually a native of Milan – until after World War II when most of them came from the depopulating countryside around the city. During my childhood, many custodians came from Southern Italy and Sardinia, but more recently they too have been replaced by immigrants from outside the EU, mostly South Americans and Sri Lankans. The concierge generally reflects the class attitudes of the building’s residents: respectfully obsequious with the owners, impatient and aloof with delivery men and messengers.

Many buildings have given up their doormen, though the finest examples of these aforementioned structures probably still have one. The next time you are visiting Milan, poke your nose inside their entrances and observe how many architects – some of them famous, most of them remembered today only by specialists in the field – gave rise to a ‘Milanese’ version of the Modern Movement that is so highly acclaimed today but, alas, no longer practised. The end of this epoch is symbolised by the Gallaratese housing complex of Aldo Rossi and Carlo Aymonino. It closes an era in which Milan was truly great and architecturally civilised.

This essay is taken from Alberto Saibene’s book Milano fine Novecento, published by Casagrande, 2021, the translation of which was originally published in Interwoven magazine

This article is taken from Port issue 30. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here

Family Portraits

Photographer Carmen Colombo and writer Alessandra Lanza investigate the Milan Millennials living together  

Luca, 28 and Nadia, 26

25-30 years old people in Milan rarely live alone, particularly those off-premises. The most common situation is flats shared by one or more roommates – friends, colleagues, strangers – who have the same aspirations and possibilities. Reasons for this choice are, from one side, often too expensive rates (which are slowly decreasing due to Covid, but continue to make it difficult to allow people to live alone) and from the other, a desire of people to have a kind of “acquired family” far away from home.

Throughout the pandemic – between curfew and smart working, which forced us to stay increasingly at home – being roommates has been challenging because it has changed habits and balance. Equally, it has often had the positive aspect of helping people not to feel isolated from the rest of the world. It has confirmed the thesis that social media simply isn’t enough, human contact is fundamental for our mental wellbeing.

Caterina, 31 and Marianna, 32

We have heard stories of someone getting sick with Covid and trying not to infect his roommates, managing to do thanks to a small bathroom. Some made their relationships stronger during eating meals (homemade or delivery) as it was the only occasion to socialise. Others became ever more attached to each other during very difficult moments. As with every family, there were endless discussions and the occasional argument.

Gioele, 28 and Vittoria, 28

With the pandemic, our concept of family has become larger. These portraits tell this story and beyond. The rent, the choice to stay in the big city and not to abandon their careers, the changes: every family tells a different angle of a generation who has always had to find a new balance.

Francesco, 26 and Giulia, 27.

“The people who live with me are the ones who I choose to live with…Sharing and confrontations are fundamental things, of course trust and esteem are fundamental too.” – Francesco, hair stylist 

Stefano, 30 and Carlo, 30

“My personal reason to stay in Milan is, first of all, my career path. I moved here mainly for my work and now the idea that I can remotely do what I do everyday has made me think that someday I can live elsewhere. In terms of price, it is a far more expensive compared to other Italian cities, like Genova, my hometown. This is the reason why I live with other guys, who are some of my best friends.” – Carlo, journalist 

Riccardo, 25, Enrico, 29, Irene, 30, Ilaria, 25 and Karim, 29

“I’ve always lived with roommates as I like sharing and the idea of having a ‘living house’, and secondly, because costs are lower. I initially didn’t know anybody in the house, except for the guy who put us in contact. In any case, I try to avoid living with friends as it’s sometimes difficult to share a flat. You need a lot of patience and tolerance.” – Enrico, videomaker assistant 

Photography Carmen Colombo

Words Alessandra Lanza


Port visits COS’ Salone del Mobile.Milano installation and discusses the future of architecture with Arthur Mamou-Mani

The Nun of Monza, Sister Marianna de Leyva – the real-life subject of Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed – began a love affair with Count Gian Paolo Osio that rocked Milanese society in the 16th Century. Following the birth of their child and endeavouring to keep their affair a secret, the Count began a spree of murders, killing anyone who threatened to reveal the affair. Imprisoned and sentenced to death for his crimes, the Count fled, taking refuge in the Palazzo Isimbardi, home to Senator Cesare Taverna. Yet his supposed friend betrayed the Count, ordering his murder in the cellar of his own home.

The stuff of fairy-tale. Yet, the Palazzo Isimbardi in Milan stands the test of time. Passed down through Italy’s nobility since the turn of the 15th century, evolving from a Marquis’ country residence, a centre for scientific research and once the site of an alleged murder – it now forms the governing headquarters of the Metropolitan City of Milan and a site of significant artistic heritage.

Today, the palace has been transformed into an installation by French Architect Arthur Mamou-Mani, in collaboration with fashion label COS for their 8th installation at the Salone Del Mobile design festival in Milan. Delicately monumental, Conifera, one of the largest 3D-printed projects ever made, traces the journey from Palazzo Isimbardi’s courtyard to the garden, weaving itself into the palace’s own architecture and landscape in a multitude of wooden, white and translucent bio-bricks. Interlacing squares and crosses form 700 lattices, hanging suspended mid-air; a 90s computer game inserted into Renaissance Italy. Using wholly renewable resources, the installation responds to the interdependent relationship between architecture and nature, and between the digital and physical worlds.

London-based architect Arthur Mamou-Mani is synonymous with the emerging technologies that are opening up new, exciting spaces in architecture, such as 3D printing and algorithmic, parametric design. Named as one of the RIBA’s rising stars in 2017, Mamou-Mani came to prominence in 2018 with his commission at Burning Man Festival for the ‘temple’ – a vortex of wood twisting up from the desert floor.

We caught up with Mamou-Mani to discover more about the project, the advantages of digital technology and his take on the future of architecture.

Photography Sophie Gladstone

How would you describe your style?

It’s the idea of the architect as a maker, and as one who lets the material and other parameters create, rather than having a top-down approach. It comes a lot from my time at the Architectural Association: I learnt that architecture can be the sum of processes, not just arbitrary decisions.

What are the benefits of using digital tools, as opposed to traditional processes?

The digital tools, which include not just computers but also robotic tools for fabrication, create a holistic approach to design. The output, the physical models we make, are a direct reflection of a loop one can create now between the digital and the physical world. It becomes an iterative process, and that’s something that was much harder to do in the past. I can’t imagine an architect carving a stone by hand and putting the stone into the computer, and then carving again.

Photography Sophie Gladstone

How did the project with COS come about?

We were building the temple for Burning Man Festival, in 2018, and we got the call to our London office. They sent us a brief – the location, a palace in Milan, made quite a contrast with the Nevada desert – and I liked that it mentioned ideas like the democratisation of fashion, technology, modularity, in-temporality. It resonated with the work I was doing. I got excited.

Can you talk me through the project in Milan?

The project is based on a modular unit, a sort of bio-brick that is assembled into a series of archways going from the courtyard of the palazzo to the garden, just outside the palazzo. We start with wood, which we are 3D printing, and which slowly becomes this very pure, natural bioplastic. It’s a journey from manmade to the natural, through a technical brick.

How do you think technology will come to change architecture?

I think architecture will accept reversibility, the idea of a building that can un-build itself, which is modular and reassemble-able, and uses materials that can also go back into the earth. It is something that we will have no choice but to embrace; we have an obligation to find solutions in architecture and construction that are more sustainable, and to think more about the long term.

No_Code Shelter

We travel to the Salone del Mobile.Milano to experience Tod’s design installation with architect Andrea Caputo, a celebration of alternative living and shelters across time and space

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter

What is a fundamental need for mankind, as essential as fire, food and water? For as long as we have existed, we have required some form of shelter from the sublime natural elements of the world – physical and immaterial structures that are vital for life to exist and thrive. With 68% of the world projected to live in urban areas by 2050 – many of which are drastically segregated by wealth, dangerously polluted and dealing with huge population fluxes – how and where we live has never been more important. In order to better understand where we are headed, architect Andrea Caputo has created a stunning installation and design concept for Italian luxury brand Tod’s to show where we have been.

Taking place at Spazio Cavallerizze during this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, visitors navigate a 1,000 square metre rug which not only matches the topographic footprint of an African village, but doubles as a map between the towering structures on show. For Caputo, the partnership matched perfectly because “the research we wanted to explore was fully aligned with Tod’s No­_Code concept, which seeks to understand the beginnings of typologies and design languages.” Charting the varied archetypes of shelters since the dawn of civilisation – from Musgum mud huts to nomadic Bedouin camps – Andrea Caputo Studio have reimagined these traditional architectures in disarmingly modern materials. A yurt has a tempered glass floor, exposing the simplicity of the build, while a giant structure from Casamance is composed of rosewood, zebrano wood and metal tubes, all of which work together to ingeniously collect water.

Andrea Caputo, photography Adriano Biondo

“We kept the typology, scale and morphology of the structures, but shifted the technologies and materials in order to create a tension,” explains Caputo, “and despite it being a hybrid we wanted to keep it manual. It was important for us to be faithful and build it by hand – no 3D printing. In many ways it’s also a didactic installation, we include the history and technical facts behind the structure and share our way of reading them, such as technical notes on how to layer, wrap, weave and assemble.” These contrasts are further complimented by films embedded inside, each visual story from a rich range of contemporary speakers who are rethinking our habits and how we live, including Italian design duo Formafantasma, Japanese art director and racing driver Mai Ikuzawa and design titan Marcello Gandini.

Photography Adriano Biondo

Celebrating the spontaneity, informality and increasingly lost art of craft and DIY – an act that is socio-politically opposed to confined real-estate developments and cramped urban planning – the team have mined decades-long research to inform the exhibition. The collective wisdom from luminaries such as Lloyd Kahn, Stewart Brand and D.C. Beard are showcased, all of whom have not only contributed to the academic field of shelters, but cultivated a global community of separatists seeking different ways to live. Leafing through the iconic counterculture Whole Earth Catalog published by Brand, Caputo reflects that, “I bumped into this 20 years ago and it influenced me deeply. DIY culture is incredible. You had guys living in caravans on Big Sur regularly putting out print books and magazines, sharing their learning and providing tools to people refusing to live in the conditions we’re told to.” Asked whether there’s any chance this radical DIY culture could stage a comeback, Caputo notes that, “Today, there’s a stronger urge to be off-grid, not belonging to mainstream plans and conditions which are given to us. But in Western, urbanised countries, it’s nearly impossible to foster this way of life. The grey zones are more and more difficult to find and in many places it’s simply illegal to build some of these structures in the natural landscape. It’s a lifestyle and philosophy rather than strictly an object and a result. There’s also the danger that once you commercialise a project like this, then it ceases to mean anything. My goal is for people to appreciate this ecologically sound, self-sustaining attitude.”

Photography Adriano Biondo

Tod’s No_Code concept “examines the changes happening in contemporary society resulting from the rapid progression we are seeing in existing codes: the way we work, our interpersonal relationships and our ever evolving clothing and style needs.” The joint installation, which celebrates and questions our relationship to craftsmanship and the places we call home – set within the context of a world on the brink of irreversible climate change – show that the brand is serious about addressing these transformations in visual codes and where, exactly, we find shelter from the coming storm.

As part of Tod’s No_Code project, Korean designer Yong Bae Seok recently released the No_Code Shoeker, uniting the classic shoe and sport sneaker

Secret City: Manuel Scano Larrazàbal’s Milan

The Italian-Venezuelan artist shares his favourite places in the city that helped shape him as an artist

Naviglio della Martesana

Port has partnered with Fifty House Milan on a series of travel stories celebrating Milan as a cultural hub. Each of these will focus on a different aspect of Milan’s culture – art, fashion, food, design and architecture – by providing local knowledge of exciting places to visit from people tied to the city’s creative industries.

The work of Italian-Venezuelan artist Manuel Scano Larrazàbal is an exploration of form and natural process, interrogating, through works on paper, sculpture and mixed media, the role of chance and error in art making, and specifically in abstraction. It is also work that is intimately linked to Milan – Larrazàbal moved to the city in 2004 to attend the Brera Academy, one of the most prestigious art schools in the country, and there he began comparing his practice to his fellow students, and to the art he saw as part of the thriving gallery scene. It led, as Larrazàbal told Port frankly, to an artistic crisis, but one that caused him to grow into the artist he has become today. “It’s not easy to live in Milan. It’s not an accommodating city,” Larrazàbal says. “I love that”

Here, Larrazàbal shares his favourite places from the city to eat, shop, walk and work.

La Ravioleria
Via Sarpi, in the heart of Milan’s Chinatown, is my favorite place for great street food. The crepes at La Ravioleria are amazing.

Igloo Houses
The igloo-shaped houses of via Lepanto were designed by the architect Mario Cavvallé in the 1940s. Finding yourself walking among these houses is surreal.

Igloo Houses

Naviglio della Martesana
This was one of the first places I discovered when I moved to the city – it’s a seemingly endless street that takes you out of Milan.

This is a very playful shop in porta Genova and great for boxes, plates, glasses, straws, envelopes, bags, detergents, stationery, furniture and equipment for birthday parties, games for children, ribbons, bows – in short, whatever you want is there and in a wide range of type, shape and colour. It’s easy to lose yourself inside.

Journalists’ Village
Between Isola and Greco, behind the Central Station, there is the historical district of Milan – Maggiolina – which includes the residential area called the Journalists’ Village. A walk around here will plunge you into an atmosphere of the times gone by. I had a studio here for a year.

Illustrations Ashleigh Giesler

Milan Fashion Week 2018

Port‘s fashion editor picks the best looks from Milan’s Spring Summer 2019 show

There was as much talk about the mosquitos as there was about fashion this year in Milan, which suggests the agenda and collections were perhaps not as engaging as they have been. Yet, as a relative newcomer to the Milan schedule, I still got my kicks, with Neil Barrett and Ermenegildo Zegna being particular favourites. For me, these two shows are up in the highlights of season that, in Milan, was characterised by the use of yellow, a sophisticated backlash to street-wear, and Zegna’s ‘new suit’.

Neil Barrett – LOOK 26

A pioneer of sports-luxe and the go-to for directional tailoring, Neil Barrett this season moved away from his predominately monochrome shows of the past to explore ‘Sea/Flowers’ in a precise collection that was punchy with yellow and print. The colour play was apparent from the start as guests entered the space through yellow rubber strips hung from the ceiling, diffusing the light in the industrial space and creating a sensation of being underwater. Florals were managed in a modern and masculine way – some printed as if medals and here magnified to create an all over-print on this beautifully laid-back coat. 


Taking the mundane and making it desirable, Prada played its card for the reserved rather than the flash-pack this season. Sat on inflatable cubes that were lit with futuristic purple hue, guests saw an army of nerds descend. This zipped knit – reminiscent of retro skiwear and alpine adventures – was paired with the collection’s signature high-waisted belted trousers in vivid yellow and an oversized trapper hat, and perfectly captures Miuccia Prada’s playful exploration of both character and form. 


Blurring the line between sophistication and streetwear, Ermenegildo Zegna reached out to the post-millennials without leaving its core audience behind. Set against the often-overlooked grandeur of Palazzo Mondadori – conceived by Brazilian architect Oscar Nieymar – both collection and setting told the story of how sharpness could be married with functional ease. Alessandro Satori’s cuffed trousers were once again present, paired here with a printed boxy shirt over a hardly-there mesh top, giving the sense of weightlessness that Satori desired. 


Proving he is a veteran designer who will not be deterred by the banging of the trend drum for streetwear or influencer-friendly clothes, Giorgio Armani delivered a simple yet fluid collection, which was easy to understand and trust. Taking place in the familiar setting of the Armani Silos, on the usual cast of statuesque models, we saw the return of the double-breasted jacket and a perfect wardrobe for modern nomads, including this relaxed ethnic-printed silk shirt and easy to wear board shorts. 


Maintaining their maverick reputation, the Caten Twins combined an unlikely mix of athleisure, military and undone corsetry to create a collection that felt both very on-trend and very them. Set in industrial warehouse space, with it’s ominous red-light runway, it were as if we had been transported to the heart of clubland in some dystopian future, watching the club kids walk by in their heavily layered attire. More subtle looks such as this oversized track-top and pants in heritage checks (which would usually be reserved for tailoring) with highlighter neon stripes, made it both interesting and wearable. 

New Talent

For years Milan has been resolutely focused on the established fashion houses, with fresh graduates in the city being encouraged to quickly join the most esteemed brand they can find. So it was satisfying to see the capital of luxury fashion begin to offer support for emerging talent through initiatives set up to nurture new designers and their labels. There is a new spirit of youth in the city. 

One such initiative is the Camera Nazionale della Moda prize, now in it’s fourth year. This season Port sat on the judging panel alongside leading industry figures – including Diesel founder and chairman of OTB Renzo Rossi, Angela Missoni, the creative director of Missoni, and Sara Sozzani Maino, deputy editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia – to decide that Mauro Muzio Medaglia of Accademia Costume and Moda was to receive the mentorship scheme and 10,000€ towards his brand. 

“The prize I received took me by surprise,” Medaglia said after the presentation. “It has been an honour to receive it and I will work to transform this opportunity in a solid base for my future. The support I received from Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana was very important, not only because it helped me in the development of my collection, but also because it is an endorsement for my career.”

Medaglia’s sculptural touch and attention to tailoring swung the decision in his favour. A palette of soft-hues in contrasting fabrics were delicately layered with a finesse the excels the experience of this designer, and the silhouettes, with their exaggerated form, added the final contemporary note to the collection. 

“Growing new talents is part of the mission of the Association and this event has a key role to confer visibility to the work and talent of the future generations,” said president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, Carlo Capasa. “This year the CNMI celebrated the 4th edition of Milano Moda Graduate and had the privilege to open the Men’s Fashion Week. With this, we wanted to underline the importance of supporting new talents, promoting the creativity and capacity of the most merit-worthy students in the Italian fashion schools that are the future of fashion. The event fulfils the CNMI’s desire to stimulate a dialogue between the most important luxury brands and the new generation of designers, who bring fresh perspectives to the fashion system. “

Runway illustrations Jayma Sacco

Open Sky: Phillip K. Smith III x COS

Port speaks to Californian artist Phillip K. Smith about OPEN SKY, a new installation for the Salone del Mobile in Milan produced in collaboration with COS

In making interactive installations with shiny surfaces that mirror their surroundings, Phillip K. Smith III has returned again and again to the sprawling landscapes of his native California. Raised in Coachella Valley, the desert has been an enduring site of inspiration in which a barren environment becomes two abstract strips of hot orange and blue. By inserting his large-scale reflective forms he distorts the sandy expanse into a series of shimmering impressions that change with every passing hour, and respond to the viewer’s movements. Smith now has a studio in Palm Beach, California and stretches of empty shore are another point of focus, whose installations unfurl and elongate to echo the coastline. 

Uprooted entirely from the climate he has studied for so long and transported to another continent, Smith’s latest project OPEN SKY is a semi-circular structure built into the constricting square courtyard of Milan’s Palazzo Isimbardi. The artwork, the result of a collaboration with London-based fashion brand COS to create their 7th annual installation for the Salone del Mobile design fair this month, contends with the 16th century architecture and marks an exciting new innovation in Smith’s work.

Karin Gustafsson, the creative director at COS, says of selecting Smith to represent the brand: “Phillip’s work is centered around looking to the natural world for subtle shifts in light and colour that inspire new ways of seeing – his works are inspiringly simple and minimal, yet they are majestic and constantly evolving with the world around them. The concepts that his work embodies are also reflective of key tenants of COS’s aesthetic and inspire us to think of our designs in new and interesting ways.”

Smith spoke to Port about the collaboration with COS, the ways visitors interact with his art and how he found working in the urban setting of a courtyard in Milan. 

How did you come to be involved with COS and the project at the Salone del Mobile?

COS reached out directly to me. My work had been on their inspiration boards for a few years and when they were thinking about commissioning an installation in their first ever outdoor space, my work made sense. COS has worked with a terrific group of artists and designers over the past few years, and I am honoured to be part of that lineage, but also to be given the chance to participate in a process that is artist-focused from conception to realisation.

In what ways does OPEN SKY respond to Palazzo Isimbardi in Milan?

I wanted to pull the sky down to the ground, to make the sky physically present. The installation is created in direct response to its location at the Palazzo Isimbardi, using both the framed sky above and the enveloping 16th century Renaissance architecture. I wanted to create an ever-changing sense of discovery of the built and natural environment. I wanted to slow the pace of experience from the moment people enter the palazzo off of the streets of Milan, so that people would be open to the subtle shifts in light and the passage of time expressed through the shifting sky.

How do you see people interacting with OPEN SKY?

As viewers navigate the installation and palazzo, their angle of reflection changes in relation to the architecture creating a dynamically shifting collage of sky and architecture, diagonally laid out across the 14 metre diameter reflective surface. This re-collaging of the surroundings opens one’s eyes to the beauty that is in front of them. The entire experience is a slowing down, from the streets of Milan to walking through the entry archway of the palazzo to walking around the abstract, tactile light and shadow exterior surface of Open Sky. The sense of pace slows and the sounds are quieted. 

Finally, people will pass through the palazzo and out into the garden where there are five freestanding Reflector sculptures that have been sited. These works interact with the sky, garden, and architecture of the interior of the block. I hope that people will use the benches and sit for a while so they can fully appreciate the surrounding beauty and atmosphere.

Many of your recent installations stretch out across beaches and deserts in your native California. How did you find this project compares to your past work?

Milan, certainly, is a new environment for me with its urban reality. When you are out in the middle of the desert, your view can be easily distilled into just to elements: land and sky. However, while all of Milan exists past the perimeters of the building, within the courtyard of the palazzo the experience can still be distilled into just two elements: sky and architecture. 

Standing since the 16th century, Palazzo Isimbardi is at the centre of Milan’s history. In what ways might OPEN SKY allow visitors to view or experience the building in a new light?

 The installation works as a tool for viewing. It is an interactive experience that requires the architecture and sky as materials and the viewer as the activator. While nearly 400 years separates the inception of the palazzo and this installation, there is a seamless, timeless merging of art, architecture, environment, light, perception and viewer.

Secret City: Matteo Rancilio’s Milan

The owner of independent clothing store Dictionary shares his personal recommendations for getting the most out of Milan

Dictionary Milano, Corso di Porta Ticinese, 46

Port has partnered with Fifty House Milan on a series of travel stories celebrating Milan as a cultural hub. Each of these will focus on a different aspect of Milan’s culture – art, fashion, food, design and architecture – by providing local knowledge of exciting places to visit from people tied to the city’s creative industries.

Former skater Matteo Rancilio founded Dictionary, a clothing store with a focus on emerging, high-quality streetwear, in 2011. Since opening its doors, his store has established itself as a one-stop shop for a wide selection of clothing and accessories from Italy and beyond. As a result, Rancilio has a unique perspective on the city’s fashion world. Here, he shares his favourite places to spend time in Milan. 

Paolo Sarpi Street
Paolo Sarpi is one of my favourite streets in Milano. It’s our chinatown and a very nice example of integration and the future of the city. There are lots of nice small shops all, tiny restaurants and the new Fondazione Feltrinelli. Go there in late afternoon on a sunny day and buy a bubble tea.
Bastard Store
What if you take an old cinema from the ‘50s and you build a suspended skate bowl and shop inside of it? And what if after you do that, you win tons of architecture awards? This is the Bastard flagship store designed by Studio Metrico. Go check it out and if you are lucky, you can see exhibitions from international artists like Todd Bratrud or French Fred.
Paolo Sarpi Street
Isola Quartiere
Isola is the real Milano. Isola is where we Milanese all go late at night. You can wander the streets and drink a beer or good wine in one of the bars. One of the best is Frida Bar. Designers, musicians and architects are all there. 
Milano means fashion but if you want something different, go here. We stock mostly Italian, northern European and emerging Korean brands. The store has been reviewed among the best independents worldwide. 
The best bakery in the city (Gambero Rosso named Pavé one of the 20 best bakeries in Italy) but it’s not just a place for cake and coffee. It’s also hub were people meet to talk about the next big thing.
Illustrations Ashleigh Giesler

Andy Warhol’s Sixty Last Suppers

As Warhol’s final painting goes on show in Milan, curator Jessica Beck speaks about the long-lasting appeal of the celebrity artist

Almost 500 years after Leonardo da Vinci’s masterwork The Last Supper was completed, Andy Warhol unveiled his homage to the Renaissance artist in the form of sixty black-and-white reproductions of the original painting, each stacked together in rows and columns like the outside of a block of 1930s flats. The work was the last Warhol finished before his death just one month after the exhibition opened, adding a degree of mystery to the paintings.

This year, in celebration of the painting’s 30-year anniversary, Sixty Last Suppers is once again being shown in Milan, this time at the Museo del Novecento (in collaboration with the Gagosian Gallery) – a stone’s throw away from Da Vinci’s original.

The original imagery associated with the painting is profoundly religious, yet Warhol’s re-working is viewed by many as a wry comment on cliché and the flippant culture of the modern art world.

Andy Warhol, Sixty Last Suppers, 1986 © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. by SIAE 2017. Photo by Rob McKeever

However, Jessica Beck, the curator of the exhibition, has another theory. “I don’t think that the work is satirical at all, on the contrary I find it to be a very serious painting, and a tribute to one of the masters of Renaissance painting. Warhol produced this painting in the mid-1980s, a period when he had fully embraced video, photography, television and even the Amiga computer. He captured the drama and power of Leonardo’s masterwork through the lens of the technology and politics of his time. He was making works from Leonardo’s image of salvation and loss in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, while the tight grid of repeated squares gives the static image a flicker and glow similar to a television screen.”

Along with Sixty Last Suppers, the exhibition will include source material for the paintings, including polaroids of a kitsch sculptural replica of the painting and a facsimile from Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, each offering visitors a chance to contextualise the canvas. 

“I hope that visitors will begin to see that Warhol was engaged with very serious ideas of painting,” explains Beck. “He tapped into ideas that remain relevant to contemporary audiences: celebrity culture, capitalism, death and public loss. It’s surprising even to me how with each year there is more and more enthusiasm and excitement around his work.”

Sixty Last Suppers is being shown at the Museo del Novecento in Milan until 18 May

How Hannes Peer Lives

The Milan-based architect invites The Spaces into his eclectic apartment overlooking Politecnico di Milano


Architect Hannes Peer set up his own practice from the comfort of his apartment in 2009. From within its walls he has designed homes for fashion designers and art collectors in Milan and beyond, as well as retail spaces from brands like N°21. His apartment overlays 1960s Modernist details – like the window frames – with Neoclassical sculptures and contemporary lighting that picks out details in the fabrics and artworks. ‘A home is where you feel comfortable and in Milan I feel accepted,’ he says. ‘I’ve lived and worked in many cities – in New York, Berlin and Rotterdam for Rem Koolhaas – but Milan always pulls me back.’

Read the full story or see more from the How I Live series via the The Spaces