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Architects bid to halt demolition of San Siro stadium

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Scores of architects have written to the mayor of Milan expressing concern over plans by Populous and rival bidder Manica/Sportium to rebuild the city’s main football stadium

The London Olympic Stadium designer and the US-Italian consortium both unveiled fresh concepts for the replacement of the 1920s San Siro stadium earlier this month.

The troubled project to create a new home for European football giants AC Milan and Inter Milan received a further boost when the regional cultural heritage commission declared it did not see a need to preserve the entire existing Giuseppe Meazza Stadium.

However, a letter to mayor Beppe Sala, signed by 175 architects, writers, historians, professors and others, has called for ongoing use of the existing stadium. It warned current proposals could see ‘fragments of the historical stadium […] reduced to a sort of fake ruin surrounded by greenery’.

‘In the 1950s, what remained of one of the oldest and most important churches of Milan, San Giovanni in Conca, had a similar fate: the fake ruin of the apse, in Piazza Missori, should serve as a warning,’ said the letter, signed by PLP associate partner Chiara Occhipinti and University of Bristol historian John Foot, among others from around Europe.

‘We would rather avoid the repetition of what happened to the Wembley Stadium in London – another symbolic building barbarously demolished in 2003 and replaced by a much more banal structure [designed by Foster + Partners]. Not to mention the enormous disposal costs of steel and reinforced concrete structures, both in economic and environmental terms.

‘We hope that the Meazza will continue to be used as a stadium and that a solution will be found that primarily meets the needs of the city and its inhabitants.’

The latest bid to retain the existing stadium comes after the city council hit out at previous proposals for excessive scale, focus on commercial activities and the total demolition of the San Siro arena.

Extract from the letter

‘It is true that the structures of the 1920s and 1930s are incorporated in the later additions and that they are not very visible. However, the fact remains that the extensions of the 1950s and 1980s have made the Meazza a building of undeniable architectural and technological quality. 

‘It has become one of the recognised monuments of the city, not only by the Milanese but also by Italian and foreign visitors, for many of whom a visit to the San Siro Stadium is as indispensable as those to the Duomo, La Scala and the Castle. After all, the Meazza is a symbol of collective memory: a temple of football, but also home to memorable concerts, now gone down in history.’

The football clubs said in a joint statement last month: ‘AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano have submitted to the Municipality of Milan a preparatory document for the feasibility project for the creation of a new world-class stadium and a sports and entertainment district in the San Siro area.

‘The new concepts designed by Populous and Manica/Sportium provide for the retention of a part of the current Giuseppe Meazza Stadium within a new retail and sports district that can be used 365 days a year, including about 106,000m² of green space.’

This retained element would be dedicated to retail, sports, cultural and leisure activities both outdoors and indoors. It will feature a running track, a cycle path, an outdoor gym, a skateboard park, a five-a-side pitch and a sports museum.

Populous san siro design evolution

Populous san siro design evolution

Evolution of Populous’s Milan designs - earlier scheme left and new scheme right

‘Both concepts would deliver an innovative district dedicated to the next generation, cutting-edge for its low environmental impact and high sustainability, creating a new meeting place for social and recreational activities in the neighbourhood,’ said the clubs.

‘AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano believe it is essential, especially in light of the current moment, to commence a project that represents more than €1 billion (£880 million) of private investment, which will generate thousands of new jobs and serve as a cornerstone for the future development of the city of Milan and Italian football.’

A new stadium – initially expected to cost about £600 million – was intended to be completed for the start of the 2022-23 season.

AC Milan have been playing at the San Siro since it was built in 1925 and have shared it with rivals Inter Milan since 1947.

In the 1950s, the ground had 19 external pedestrian ramps added to it. Then 11 concrete cylindrical towers (designed by Ragazzi and Partners 1987-1990) were installed as part of a major overhaul ahead of Italy’s iconic 1990 World Cup.

Shutterstock eyesonmilan san siro stadium milan

The San Siro stadium in Milan

Source: Shutterstock Eyesonmilan

The San Siro stadium in Milan

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