venerdì, settembre 28, 2007

How Italy bought into British style

Milan has a whole new neighbourhood – with help from Norman Foster
LET’S face it, no one does style quite like the Italians – and no Italians do it like the Milanese. From the designer shops on Via Montenapoleone to the elaborately decorated Duomo, this place simply oozes the stuff. And this month the fashion world descended on the city to soak up the latest designs from such notable locals as Armani, Prada and Versace.
So it might come as a surprise to find that the Milanese are looking to a British company for the design of a colossal new project here – a €1.4 billion (£980 million) city within the city, designed by the architects Foster and Partners.
The development will be called Milano Santa Giulia, an entire new quarter for the city on a 120-hectare (296acre) former industrial site just three miles from the city centre. It will feature a shopping promenade, a 32-hectare public park, a school and church, multiplex cinema, supermarket, retail park, and Milan’s first substantial conference centre.
The jewel in the crown, however, will be the crescent-shaped development of eight buildings and more than 600 luxury homes, due for completion in 2011 and designed by Norman Foster to attract the international buyer. The homes will range from one-bedroom flats to large family apartments. The half-moon shape of the complex surrounds a 4.5hectare private park with tennis courts, a fitness centre, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, squash courts and a gym.
Every apartment will have a veranda or terrace with large windows facing the park. Using the internet or a WAP phone, residents will be able to control their heating and lighting – and even check what the children are watching on television. If you are always mislaying your keys, worry no more: these apartments can be unlocked by a device that recognises your fingerprints. Equally flash is a system for opening the door remotely by tapping a security code into your mobile phone: handy if your dinner guests turn up before you do.
The site’s show apartment was styled by Foster’s wife, Elena, and features even more high-tech trickery, with buttons to reveal television screens in walls or (my particular favourite) a switch that converts the kitchen table into a cocktail bar. According to Norman Foster, “We have considered everything, from the macro down to the micro – the environmental strategy to the quality of finishes in the kitchen.”
This level of attention does not come cheap – the one-bedroom apartments cost more than €500,000 – but there is some consolation in that you are doing your bit for the environment: Santa Guilia will be a city with a conscience. Cars will be almost invisible, with many routes underground and priority given to the pedestrian. You might even chose to leave the car at home, since there will be trams throughout the development, along with underground and overground railway stations. A neat pneumatic disposal system will carry your rubbish via a pipeline to a central area, where it will be sorted for recycling, and the entire site will be powered by its own gas-fired power station.
Luigi Zunino, the chairman and CEO of Risanamento, believes that “at Milano Santa Giulia, we are creating something unique that can be applied to different urban contexts around the world – a new concept for sustainable urban living”.
With a little help from the Brits, of course.