CityLife Milan


Milan, Italy | 2009-2011 | Concept design of masterplan and detailed design of Phase 1

The concept for the CityLife Park in Milan is ‘A Park between the Mountains and the Plain’, and seeks to interpret the landscapes of the Lombardy region. Built on a former fairground site (‘Fiera’), it comprises an extensive green area of 170,000m2 with cycle paths, walkways, piazzas and gardens. This forms a series of spaces which create a seamless transition between the park and the distinctive Tre Torri, Zaha Hadid, Isozaki and Daniel Libeskind-designed residential districts which have a distinctive character that is embraced as part of the parks character.

With a total surface area of 16.8ha, Citylife Milan is the third largest park in Milan (after the Parco Sempione and Giardini Pubblici), and completes the chain of parks in the northwest of the city, establishing an authentic ecological network. Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s design brings a microcosm to the site that reproduces the characteristics of the landscape of Milan and its surroundings. At its heart, the Piazza, the Belvedere, the Giardino delle Farfalle e delle Sculture, are connected by paths, gentle ramps and the sculptural shape of the land. Terraces of restaurants, cafés and covered gardens provide a view across the park, a short distance from the main shopping area. To the north, the Giardino delle Prealpi, the Anfiteatro, the Area per gli Eventi and the area of pines and oaks create a large wooded zone, offering a space for the organisation of events, festivals, concerts, temporary gardens, exhibitions and artistic installations. 

To the south, the Bosco di Faggi, Piazza dei Fontanili, the Giardino di Pianura, the maple plantation and Piazza del Mercato create spaces that should facilitate social interaction, walks and contemplation. The central water feature at the heart of the park is divided in two by a causeway linking two residential areas. A pool with bubbling fontanilli in the northern half flows into a water table with a cascading edge. The natural effects are both stimulating and calming, while the shallow pool reflects the sky, and the water cools the surrounding space. The historic fountain at the Piazzale Giulio Cesare was restored and reframed in the contemporary landscape of Citylife.

Each element contributes to the realisation of this new eco-sustainable, twenty-first century park, placing CityLife at the heart of the city and its surroundings. The ground plane is moulded into an attractive and striking topographical experience which not only connects the individual spaces but also frames areas of the park and creates spaces with unique characters and diverse vistas. The design is supported by considered plant choices and a range of spatial scales, programmes and atmospheres. 2,000 new trees ensure both biodiversity and consistency with existing varieties.

Gustafson Porter + Bowman led the winning team from an invited competition and worked with !Melk, One Works and ARUP. Phase A (comprised of 50,000m2) completed in 2014. 

Our aim was that the park must provide its own calm integrity, with simple, bold landscaped spaces that create their own contexts within the three dimensional urban environment that surrounds them.

The metaphor of “pleating” to create sculptural form is the operative element used to shape, connect, and define the CityLife site on the former Fiera grounds.
— Donncha O Shea, Partner