When in 1983 the Italian Vogue art director Flavio Lucchini and the photographer Fabrizio Ferri opened photo studios in a sleepy, warehouse-filled neighborhood southwest of Milan’s center, their colleagues questioned the move. “It was a completely abandoned stretch of Via Tortona, and was considered extremely out of the way,” recalls Lucchini’s sister-in-law Giulia Borioli, a former director at the complex, called Superstudio 13.
“People said we were crazy to think that the fashion industry would embrace this neighborhood.”
But those people were wrong. The “Zona Tortona” became a magnet for the city’s creative set, with photographers and designers gravitating to the area’s big empty spaces and small artisan shops, creating a new market for restaurants, museums, shops and hotels.
In 2001, Giorgio Armani commissioned the Japanese architect Tadao Ando to build his headquarters in a former Nestle factory there. Increasingly, the neighborhood is attracting more than just the fashion set, becoming a hub for events and exhibits during Milan’s annual furniture fair.
The city has now commissioned the British architect David Chipperfield to transform the Ansaldo, a former neighborhood steel factory, into the Center for Advanced Studies of Visual Art and a photography museum. Chipperfield is also designing a new building within the Ansaldo, to house the Center for Non-European Cultures, an auditorium, a restaurant and a bookshop. The Ansaldo is set to open in the next few years.