A straight line is the shortest link between two points, but it is not necessarily the cheapest. That is why many students choose this path: they arrive by train and head to the technical and scientific faculties of East Milan, but they walk through the neighborhood instead of taking the subway or the tram. Groups of future engineers, architects and scientists cross the quiet roads of the area: what do they notice during their walk?
Milan is a city of interiors, and this area is no exception. It grants only few hints. Look at this wall:
Four floors, no windows. From outside, only dull colors and old graffiti are visible. After studying this area on Google Earth and doing some research, it appears that the wall is doing its job: it protects a nun cloister. It was established in 1934, as an educational institute for girls; but the nuns were so eager to preserve their tranquility that after twenty years they devoted the whole construction only to meditation and contemplation. Today, its long colonnades and kitchen gardens are visible only from above.
Another example is this anonymous rationalist building:
Sometimes you see guards in front of it, or cars discreetly entering the internal parking. The students quickly pass in front of the building, without any hint on what is going on inside. The only visible sign is a brass plate, stating Valeas – the Latin word for “Take care”. Again, Google reveals that it is one of the oldest Italian pharmaceutical companies. From outside, it looks more like a place of illegal activities – like the copy shop few meters ahead, where you can find whole copies of any textbook.
Walking through this area is like walking through a tunnel, as if the locals were protecting themselves from the flows of passing students. Few meters ahead, you are back to the vibrant city, with tramways and more passers-by. The old smokestack of the Polytechnic University is there, fully visible in its height. A very visible symbol, in contrast with the cloistered life of the surrounding area.
Post, images & map by Giovanni Vecchio, a PhD student at Politecnico di Milano, a mobility planner, and a curious city explorer. Connect with him @vecchiogiovanni.
Discovery Walks is a blog series that challenges residents to actively use their senses to guide urban exploration. To submit a Discovery Walk from your city, check out this post. This series is curated by Insiyah Mohammad, a student at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Find her on twitter: @InsiyahMohd