Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our next movie from Milan, architect and designer Fabio Novembre takes us to a converted farm near the city centre and explains why he sees the project as an important response to Italy's ongoing economic crisis.

"Milano used to be a place full of farms," Novembre explains. "Most of them were in the city centre, very close to the Duomo, and this was one of them."

"Milan used to be a place full of farms"

Called Cascina Cuccagna, the farm is pressed-up against apartment buildings in the Porta Romana district of Milan, to the south-east of the city centre.

Novembre explains that the eighteenth-century buildings had been derelict for many years, until they were restored and converted into a cultural centre in 2008 by a consortium of local companies and residents.

"Milan used to be a place full of farms"

He believes this bottom-up approach to redevelopment is a "very interesting example of how Milan can evolve" in the face of a lack of government investment.

"A group of citizens asked the city government, that is now without any money, to rent the place for 20 years," he says. "It's really a new way that we can approach the [economic] crisis as Italians. There is no public money any more, so we have to really organise ourselves on a smaller scale to have different solutions for evolution."

"Milan used to be a place full of farms"

Novembre shows us round the new facilities, which include a restaurant and bar, organic grocery store, gallery and a community garden where the fruit and vegetables for the restaurant are grown.

All these facilities are available to the public and Novembre believes it is this local community spirit that makes the farm special: "The restaurant here is called Un Posto a Milano, which means 'a place in Milan' - that's the essences of this place, that's the spirit of this place."

"Milan used to be a place full of farms"

Cascina Cuccagna also has a special place in Novembre's heart for another reason. "Fourteen years ago, exactly in this place, I met my wife," he reveals. "There used to be a very small, tiny restaurant here [where we met]. Now we are able to come here with our daughters and enjoy it all day long."

"Milan used to be a place full of farms"

Watch all our video reports from Milan here.

We drove out to Cascina Cuccagna in our MINI Cooper S Paceman.

The music featured is a track called Where are Your People? by We Have Band. You can listen to the full track on Dezeen Music Project.

"Milan used to be a place full of farms"

  • Michael

    Milan also used to have Roman slaves. At one point in history, Milan had nothing more than a few tribes hunting and gathering.

    While I’m a proponent of self-sustaining urban gardening, harkening to the past, that doesn’t necessarily preclude looking to the future. Why did gardening and farming stop? That would be a better area to look at for a historical lesson, not a historic utopian revision.

    The point I’m making is not to force public money into government intervention in Milan, but to look at how mercantilism transforms urban environments, then invent the solutions to solve problems such as poor quality food, poor quality air and expensive food commodities. There is a market answer, and I challenge Novembre, like the individual shops in the farmers market, to innovate and invent the solution to the problem without the use of force.

  • WJR

    Distracted by that Margiela piece.

    • blah

      All I got was blah blah blah “omg that jacket is amazing” blah blah blah.

  • Tommaso

    I would mention the conservative intervention on the farm by Italian architect Marco Dezzi Bardeschi. Personally, I find the intervention both interesting and debatable, but Ithink an architecture magazine should mention that, considering the academic relevance of that personality.

  • For those interested in urban farming, have a look at http://www.containerarchitecture.co (not com) then go to Vineyard Village @ Leopold.

  • Great idea.

    More cities should follow Milan’s example by reclaiming unused buildings and spaces and turning them in to community centres for people to reconnect with their environment and each other. The new renaissance is here.

  • Emanuele

    Fabio Novembre IS NOT a voice of Italian design.