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DROPCITY rendering by architect Andrea Caputo

Andrea Caputo Reveals “Dropcity in—progress” at Milan Design Week

Throughout a series of interconnected tunnels beneath Milan’s Central Train Station, the exhibition hosts live construction demonstrations, design exhibitions, panels, performances and more to tease the anticipated public center for architecture and design, set to open formally in September.

During Milan Design Week 2024, local architect, Andrea Caputo, presents Dropcity in—progress. Throughout a series of interconnected tunnels beneath Milan’s Central Train Station, the exhibition hosts live construction demonstrations, design exhibitions, panels, performances and more to tease the potential of the anticipated public center for architecture and design, set to open formally in October.

Across a footprint of over one million square feet, Dropcity will house exhibition galleries, production workshops, carpentry, robotics and advanced prototyping laboratories. In 2025, both its materials library and public library, with a focus on the topics of architecture and design, will be accessible to the public. Additionally, a large area of the center will be dedicated to research, teaching and office spaces for professionals.

Ahead of the global design week, Whitewall sat down with Caputo to discuss his intentions for the ambitious project.

DROPCITY rendering by architect Andrea Caputo DROPCITY rendering; courtesy of Andrea Caputo.

WHITEWALL: How did you arrive at this preliminary exhibition Dropcity?

ANDREA CAPUTO: It all began back in 2018. At that time, I was working as an architect in Milan and noticed significant changes in the city after the 2015 Expo. The urban landscape transformed, prices soared, and accessibility decreased. This trend was reflective of broader shifts in European metropolises, but Milano stood out due to its dense concentration of architects and designers. With roughly 10% of all Italian architects practicing there, its density of design professionals rivals other, much larger cities like London and Paris. Despite this, there was a lack of cohesion within the professional community. While we had exceptional design institutions and universities, there was no central hub for daily exchanges, hindering collaboration and growth. Recognizing this gap, I envisioned Dropcity as a new, public center for architecture and design. Over time, I scouted locations, engaged with city officials and stakeholders, and navigated the bureaucratic process. Finally, after six years, we’re ready to kick off the project.

DROPCITY rendering by architect Andrea Caputo DROPCITY rendering; courtesy of Andrea Caputo.

Dropcity Fosters a Hub for Architectural and Design Innovation in Milan 

WW: Dropcity inhabits a series of tunnels behind the Milano Centrale Railway Station. How did you decide upon this location?

AC: Firstly, I believe in repurposing existing infrastructure rather than erecting new buildings, minimizing environmental impact and tapping into underutilized spaces. When scouting locations, I considered several options, but the area behind the train station, particularly the old docks, intrigued me. Logistically, it’s well-connected, just eight minutes from Porta Nuova and with two subway stops nearby. Historically, it served as a vital hub for goods transport, evolving into a fish market by the 1970s. It has been abandoned since the 90s, so I saw this as an opportunity to revive a space with rich history. This wouldn’t be the first time the tunnel typology has been selected for revitalization; similar structures exist globally, from Paris to Tokyo. But by repurposing this space, Dropcity aims to avoid commercialization and instead foster a hub for architectural and design innovation.

WW: Could you outline the initial steps and initiatives planned? What can we expect to see upon its opening in the fall?

AC: The rollout will be phased, with the fabrication lab taking center stage, initially. This lab will cater to architects, offering prototyping and model-making facilities alongside advanced technologies like 3D printing and robotics. It’s about bridging the gap between digital design and physical production, providing a space for hands-on experimentation. Concurrently, exhibitions will kick off, starting with a showcase by Bruther, a Paris-based architecture firm. This exhibition, which is free to the architects, seeks to provide a relatively young architecture firm with the opportunity to showcase their work, but also communicate to every architect, every startup, every collective that they can consider our platform to share their work. Our overall goal is to highlight the process behind architectural and design endeavors, moving beyond polished final products to explore the journey of creation.

DROPCITY rendering by architect Andrea Caputo DROPCITY rendering; courtesy of Andrea Caputo.

Bridging the Gap between Academia and Practice, and Transcending Geographical Boundaries

WW: DROPCITY is entering into an incredibly concentrated design landscape. How do you see it supplementing or evolving the city’s narrative, especially during events like Milan Design Week?

AC: Milan boasts a rich design legacy, but we must question if we’re still at the forefront of global innovation. Dropcity seeks to reignite that spirit of invention, providing a platform for emerging architects and designers to experiment and collaborate. While Milan Design Week thrives on showcasing finished products, DROPCITY aims to delve deeper, spotlighting the processes and methodologies that underpin design. We’re less concerned with competition and more focused on fostering a community of innovators, bridging the gap between academia and practice.

WW: Do you see this project influencing similar initiatives in other cities?

AC: Absolutely. Dropcity’s model can serve as inspiration for other cities grappling with similar challenges. The transition from academia to professional practice is often fraught with obstacles, and providing a supportive environment can nurture emerging talent. While each city has its unique context, the need for spaces like DROPCITY transcends geographical boundaries. By showcasing the process behind design and architecture, we hope to spark conversations and collaborations that extend well beyond Milan.

Architect Andrea Caputo Exhibition Photo by Piercarlo Quecchia, courtesy of Andrea Caputo.

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