Italian practice CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and a team led by Australian real estate group Lendlease have won the international competition to design the University of Milan’s new science campus. Located in the MIND-Milano Innovation District, a 1-million-square-meter (10 million square feet) innovation park whose masterplan was also developed by CRA, the new campus is set to open in 2025.

 UNIMI Science Campus / CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

The campus will extend over 190,000 square meters (2 million square feet) and will serve approximately 23,000 researchers and students specializing in natural and formal sciences at the University of Milan. The design, developed by CRA in collaboration with architect Italo Rota, revolves around a network of green courtyards, a series of uninterrupted walking paths (“common ground”) at different heights, and five brick buildings. It also features a large central square with an adjacent lake.

 UNIMI Science Campus / CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

The buildings pay tribute to the Ca’ Granda, the 15th-century brick building designed by the Renaissance architect Filarete, which today hosts the central seat of the University of Milan. The facades have been designed with an innovative construction technique, with each brick individually positioned by a robotic arm and treated as a pixel within a large-scale bas-relief. The result will be a three-dimensional tapestry with textual and visual content.

 UNIMI Science Campus / CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

The project’s main typological features – the courtyards and the “common ground” – are also inspired by the Ca’ Granda, which was the closest realization of Filarete’s vision for a utopian city that he called Sforzinda. The “Campus 2.0” reinterprets Filarete’s design principles, albeit with 21st-century digital technologies and new approaches to teaching and learning.

 UNIMI Science Campus / CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

“Recent data analyses of human interaction on academic campuses have shown that there is a direct correlation between the physical proximity of researchers and scientific output,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “In other words, human interaction is an essential component of the discovery process. The recent pandemic, which forced scholars to live and work for months on end in isolation, only reinforced the importance of physical space. Our ‘Campus 2.0’ design elaborates on Filarete’s thinking from almost 500 years ago to create a testing ground that will promote interaction among diverse communities.”

 UNIMI Science Campus / CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

“Filarete’s utopia is often visualized with the eight-pointed star shape of Sforzinda, his ideal city. However, if you zoom in and take a closer look at the design, you can appreciate other compelling features,” says architect Italo Rota, the project’s creative consultant. “Filarete thought that architecture should focus on durability, simplicity, and affordable technical sophistication. He wanted his buildings to become the backdrop of a new humanism, blurring the boundaries between private and public spaces. At the new Campus in Milan, we strive to realize Filarete’s utopia, on the very site where six years ago, millions of people from all over the world met for the World Expo.”

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