New neighbourhood: Milan

Coming soon to WestSideAction will be some explorations of new urban neighbourhoods built from scratch. Like we have LeBreton Flats, Zibi … other cities are facing the same challenges of building entire new neighbourhoods within the established urban footprint.


So I think it useful to re-visit a few of these past visits. Let’s start with this story from Milan, Italy’s Porta Nuova district,  from back in 2015. This was part of a series mostly focussing on the Bosco Verticale (use the search bar to go to those stories), but this one post focuses on the neighbourhood rather than specific buildings.



The ground level floors of the Bosco buildings were just plate glass. Heavily frosted at that, so you couldn’t see much past the wide shoulders of the security guards, err… doorman. It was so blah and disappointing and cold I neglected to take any pictures of the lobby level.

Outside there was a nice surrounding park, presumably above the parking garage. It was surrounded by a mix of new low rise apartments and refurbished older houses, mostly post-War. Many of these had very large and useful balconies with nice views of the Bosco Verticale. These units appealed to my liking, and pocket book, since one enjoyed the Bosco without paying for it.


There was even a tot lot, something conspicuously absent from the Claridge’s family-friendly LeBreton development, and for which no one at the City can be stirred into having any interest in providing either. Remind me again of why people have kids and move out of the downtown and why LeBreton is such a successful compleat community.

There was a nice separated bi-directional bike track right at the front door of the Bosco buildings. It made for great short term parking.


Milan is a notoriously auto-friendly city, although like Vienna and London it is trying to change its image with publicity-obvious projects. A good start, but as we know here it takes decades to tame auto-mania and turn our transportation titanic around. Here’s a nearby view down onto a mixed-development block that looks great at first …


.. but if you enlarge the photo, you’ll see the posted speed limit on that nice one block one way traffic calmed brick street with nice landscaping and cobbles designed to slow traffic … is 50 kmh. If you are using those frequent crosswalks, better hustle your buns.

Most of the post-2009 development in the Porta Nuova district was high rises. Black is the new black.



Milan is famous for fashion, and new high rises had the fashionably variegated exterior panelling;


Not everything was high rise. There were some townhousey sort of units:



(The balconies on the glass building to the left are balconies on an office building, which is common in Milan. Maybe for smoking? Some windows open too.)

There were a few more-traditional red brick buildings in the area. These ones had a nice industrial look, but residents were having mixed  luck keeping their balcony plants alive, despite signs of irrigation hose:

IMG_5119 IMG_5167 IMG_5168

That completes our look at the Bosco Verticale. I have pic of other treed buildings. I also have pic of the commercial centre of the Porta Nuova district, and of the bicycle mall which Ottawa could so easily transplant onto Sparks Street but never would, and of the interior of my Milano apartment which was similar to Ottawa (IKEA furniture) and yet different. Let me know in the comments if these far off urbanism stories are of interest or if I should stick to Ottawa.

5 thoughts on “New neighbourhood: Milan

  1. So interesting! I think it can be difficult to imagine what these sorts of spaces could look like without turning to other cities.
    Also, does Ottawa have a strategy or any sort of commitment to encourage families to stay in the core?

  2. Thank you for sharing your travels and interest in good residential design. Just back form Berlin, there is much of a hotchpotch of new design there too, but little rivalling the attractive Milan ‘hoods you show here.
    Would that some of our city councillors inform themselves a bit more about what goes on in the rest of the world and not depend on the self-interest of builders to show them what can be done. Ottawa has so many splendid sites with views and exposure to water, Also the opportunity to design ‘centers for living and working around our new LRT stations, should be open to design competitions.
    An additional challenge here that could be interestingly handled is the winter landscape.

  3. Eric, this is exactly the kind of thing we need. Ottawa can operate in such a bubble. We need to see what other cities are doing. Thank you.

  4. I love seeing your commentary on urban development at a global level. It gives us more perspective for setting benchmarks on our own development.

  5. Very interesting to see what’s happening elsewhere in the world. Too bad our civic leaders haven’t discovered the benefits of learning from the mistakes of others with similar challenges.
    Keep the reviews coming- and thank you for your insights.

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