Greenways as a New Potential for Shrinking Cities. The Case of Milan (Italy)



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The paper aims to illustrate the transformation of Milan, focusing on its relationship with (urban) greenways. At the beginning of XXI century Milan was deeply converted into a mere service industry centre. The change modified also its territory. Brownfields took place of industries and logistic compounds, places without a use dotting its urban fabric. In the 1970s, visionary architects, planners, and landscape architects started to design a series of parks surrounding the town, creating a green crown fading its outskirts. North Park and South Park together with Boscoincittà (Wood-in-town) created a continuous green curtain setting the basis for a circular greenway. In the 1990s some studies, including the PhD thesis ‘Post-industrial Green’ by one of the authors and the academic research ‘Metro-Bosco’ by Stefano Boeri, demonstrated how Milan, while becoming a shrinking town passing from 2 million to 1.6 million inhabitants, could be transformed in a town where districts could be connected through green corridors. These theories, even if they had good dissemination and were widely published, actually didn’t become real as Milanese Administration imposed an anachronistic policy based on the developing of new neighbourhoods, trying to ‘sprawl’ a city that actually was decreasing. This proposal however bore a series of radiant green corridors starting in the centre of Milan (Raggi Verdi -Green Rays, a project by LAND, 2005). In the second decade of the new Millennium, it was clear that Milan had to accept to decrease, enabling at the same time a way to foster the quality of life for its citizens. In the last five years, the new Administration’s policy encouraged the abandoned areas requalification (actions ‘Re-shaping Milan’ 2015, and ‘Re-shaping Milan’, 2018-ongoing, developed with the Politecnico di Milano), and asked Italian Railways (Trenitalia) to ‘give back’ to the town six unused railways-yards encrusted in the city territory. This request, endorsed also by the common people - asking more and more green spaces and slow mobility in the town-, became real with the visionary plan “Fiume Verde” by Studio Boeri Architetti (Green River, 2016). This proposal designed a net of inner green corridors able to increase deeply the city green surface. In 2018, the first international competition to transform two railway-yards has been launched. One will be a linear park, the other will host the widest Milanese public park). The first concrete milestones for a green-way transformation of Milan.