CityLife: a biophilic district in the heart of Milan

Citylife: A Biophilic District In The Heart Of Milan

CityLife – the new district in Milan – is an innovative, energy efficient and simply gorgeous area.
I've wanted to visit it for a while, but I just didn't manage to squeeze it into my Milan Design Week agenda.
I finally managed to go there last week and I can confirm, it's amazing!

The project – that includes office buildings, public services and a huge residential area – is innovative in many ways: modern aesthetics, sustainable use of resources, top comfort and livability... Plus, it is a stunning example of biophilic design!

So let's take a tour inside CityLife! Shall we?
It's going to be a slightly longer post, but be sure to stick around till the end because there's so much to see in this district!

The area

Starting with a bit of context, CityLife is located in the north-west of Milan, at approx. 2.5 km from Duomo and comes as a redevelopment of the historic district of Milano Fiera, which is where fairs used to take place before the birth of Rho Fiera (aka the current venue of Salone del Mobile).
Well connected to the highways, it is also easy to reach with public transport, including a dedicated stop of the newest metro line M5 called Tre Torri.

Plan of CityLife.
Credit: CityLife

Spanning a total area of 366,000 m2, CityLife develops around three skyscrapers that have changed the skyline of Milan. It has actually been a massive project, and I must say I was positively surprised to discover that a Permanent Environmental Observatory has supervised all construction works to make sure the surrounding districts did not get too much disturbed by dust and noise!

Skyline of Milan with the addition of the Three Towers in CityLife.
Credit: Libeskind Tower

The project is signed by three amazing names: Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki and Daniel Libeskind and reading their words about this project, we can get an idea of its significance both for the city of Milan, for Italy and for the rest of Europe as well:
 

"Milan is the city that best represents the international face of Italy, comparable to London, Frankfurt and Paris. In this sense, for us, designing in Milan brings us into contact with the most modern face of Italy."

Photos of Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki and Daniel Libeskind.
From left: Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki and Daniel Libeskind. Credit: CityLife

With its 170,000 m2 public park, CityLife is the largest pedestrian area in town and one of the biggest in Europe. Interpreting the pillars of biophilic design masterfully, the overall ambiance is meant to promote a sense of belonging and safety, and I can say this is exactly how I felt even though I walked around for only few hours!

Well-being is indeed one of the main objectives of a biophilic residential area, making residents feel safe and attached to the place where they live. And when this happens, people will be more prone to spend time outdoors and more open to interact, creating a true community where they know and help each other.

View of the pedestrian area in CityLife, promoting a safe ambiance and creating a biophilic residential area.
Credit: CityLife

Business and shopping

The entire CityLife district develops around three business towers:

  • Allianz Tower (by Arata Isozaki and Andrea Maffei)
  • Generali Tower (by Zaha Hadid Architects)
  • Libeskind Tower (by Daniel Libeskind)

 
The design and technology used in these buildings are cutting-edge and the first two towers have already gained the LEED-Gold pre-certification rating for their innovative and eco-friendly use of materials!

Tre Torri in Milan CityLife district.
Credit: CityLife

Below the towers is the huge CityLife shopping district, actually the biggest urban shopping centre in Italy. This is another beautiful example of biophilic design, with a predominance of curved lines inside out, a massive use of wood, greenery spread both indoors and outdoors and tree-shaped columns (remember the natural analogous pillars?)

Outdoor view of CityLife shopping district, an example of biophilic design.
Credit: CityLife (via Instagram)
A closer outdoor view of CityLife shopping district, an example of biophilic design.
Credit: CityLife (via Instagram)
Indoor view of CityLife shopping district, an example of biophilic design.
Credit: DforDesign
Another indoor view of CityLife shopping district, an example of biophilic design.
Credit: DforDesign. And yes, the girl you see walking in the back is me!

All shops are located at the lower deck, whereas the top floor host restaurants and bars all around the perimeter and a seating area in the middle. The tables are surrounded by greenery and some of them are also equipped with task lighting and electrical outlets, making this a great space for studying or co-working (I wish I could go study there when I was in University!) Here and there, sound-proof chairs provide even more privacy.
 

Learn more about office (and home office) design in my latest e-book

Indoor view of CityLife shopping district, an example of biophilic design.
Credit: CityLife (via Instagram)

Talking about shopping...A little announcement for all design lovers: at CityLife there's an Habitat store!!! Needless to say that I spent quite a bit of time in there, shot tons of photos and lengthened my wish list considerably!

View of the Habitat store in CityLife shopping district.
Credit: CityLife (via Instagram)

Residential area

And now to the part I like the most about CityLife; the residential area!
The whole area is made of two complexes of buildings, one designed by Zaha Hadid...

View of the pedestrian area in CityLife, promoting a safe ambiance and creating a biophilic residential area.
Credit: CityLife

...and one by Daniel Libeskind.

View of the pedestrian area in CityLife, promoting a safe ambiance and creating a biophilic residential area.
Credit: CityLife

Both of them have a spectacular design and in the interiors we can spot the use of biophilic design: huge windows flooding the space with natural light, massive use of wood-looking wall panelling and seamless connection between indoor and outdoor.

Biophilic interior design in CityLife, entrance.
Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife, living room.
Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife, bedroom.
Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife, lobby.
Lobby of Zaha Hadid's residence. Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife, balcony.
Terrace of Daniel Libeskin's residence. Credit: CityLife

And now let's dream for a moment peeking into the penthouses! Biophilic design is massively applied here again; see for instance how many curved and wrapping lines there are?

Biophilic interior design in CityLife.
Zaha Hadid penthouse. Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife.
Zaha Hadid penthouse. Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife.
Zaha Hadid penthouse. Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife.
Zaha Hadid penthouse. Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife.
Daniel Libeskin penthouse. Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife.
Daniel Libeskin penthouse. Credit: CityLife
Biophilic interior design in CityLife.
Daniel Libeskin penthouse. Credit: CityLife

Energy efficiency is key in all these residences, with solar panels installed on the roof of all the buildings. CityLife is also a zero-emission neighbourhood: it doesn't use any source of combustion and water is the primary source of energy.

The residential area is surrounded by a huge park that sets such a calming atmosphere that one wouldn't even say it's Milan! With biophilic design always in mind, the layout of the park is not perfectly flat. Besides providing visual movement, its valleys-and-hills profile creates some hidden areas that give a sense of refuge and are the perfect spot to rest in nature.

Biophilic park in CityLife.
Credit: CityLife
Biophilic park in CityLife, by night.
Credit: DforDesign

One area of the park is even devoted to gardens, with various flowers, fruits and vegetables!

Garden in CityLife park.
Render of CityLife Gardens. Credit: CityLife

In the middle of CityLife park is BabyLife, a biophilic nursery (design by 02Arch). Built entirely out of wood, it is just an amazing building! Here are some biophilic features of the interiors:

Full-height windows for maximum natural light

BabyLife, a biophilic nursery in CityLife.
Credit: CityLife

100% wood interiors

BabyLife, a biophilic nursery in CityLife.
Credit: CityLife

Gorgeous view to the outdoors through an internal garden (this may be one of my favourite features of biophilic interiors!)

BabyLife, a biophilic nursery in CityLife.
Credit: CityLife

Tree-shaped wood panelling indoors (the natural analogous pillars coming back again)

BabyLife, a biophilic nursery in CityLife.
Credit: CityLife

And if all this was not enough, CityLife's park is also punctuated by art installations, some of which are really Instagrammable!

Art installation in the park of CityLife.
Hand and foot for Milan by Judith Hopf. Credit: CityLife
Art installation in the park of CityLife.
Cieli di Belloveso by Matteo Rubbi. Credit: CityLife
Art installation in the park of CityLife.
Vedovelle e draghi verdi by Serena Vestrucci. Credit: CityLife
Art installation in the park of CityLife.
Filamone e bauci by Ornaghi & Prestinari. Credit: CityLife
Art installation in the park of CityLife.
Daily Desiderio by Riccardo Benassi. Credit: CityLife
Art installation in the park of CityLife.
Coloris by Pascale Marthine Tayou. Credit: CityLife

So what do you think about CityLife?
Personally, I must say I went there with good hopes, but it has honestly overcome all my expectations! And for sure, it will be a fixed stop in my next trips to Milan!

 

Read more about biophilic design on the dedicated mini-series:

 
 
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