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Ex Ansaldo Factory
Built at the start of the twentieth century, the origins of this big electromechanical plant can be traced to 1904, when the Roberto Züst company opened its first production facility in an area then on the outskirts of town, characterized by large industrial plants, among which stands out the coeval neighboring Riva plant on Via Stendhal. In 1908 ownership passed to AEG, and then in 1915 to Società Elettrotecnica Galileo Ferraris.
The steady succession of dissimilar activities led to a gradual expansion in the area occupied by the plant after World War I, with its sale to the Franco Tosi company, and, in particular, in 1921, to CGE, a company specialized in the production of large electrical transformers.
The present configuration of the plant came together in the 1930s, conditioned by the large perimetral buildings erected earlier by the Società Elettrotecnica Galileo Ferraris: the building at the entrance on Via Bergognone, subsequently raised to the present-day four upper storeys, and the monumental façade overlooking Via Tortona. The elevation of the oldest structures features a stone foundation on the ground floor and an exposed brick facing on the upper storeys. The decorations, instead, consist in frames around the doors and windows and the wrought iron gratings protecting the first upper storey.
When CGE entered the picture, the plant expanded to its present-day perimeter: new structures to house the new cafeteria, warehouses, workshops, and loading docks. The warehouses were linked to the Porta Genova railway station by means of siding tracks, still visible today at the main entrance. The bridge suspended over Via Tortona remains as a sign of the plant’s rapid growth.
Inside the old works, the sheds used for production and handling of materials can still be seen; for some time they have been undergoing renewal to house municipal offices and cultural agencies and initiatives. In particular, some of these structures have accommodated since 2001 the famous La Scala workshops.
After Ansaldo took over the plant in 1966, production activity continued, but tapered off in the 1980s following the general trend of deindustrialization in the district. In 1989, the city of Milan purchased the entire area, which had fallen into disuse, under the constraint that it be employed for cultural services. In 1999, it announced an international architectural competition for the conversion of part of the complex for cultural activities and a museum, won in 2000 by architect David Chipperfield.
With the goal of conserving the architectonic character and the urban fabric of the area, the design eventually arrived at was based on the principle of minimal intervention, with the restoration of a few buildings and the construction of a new, free-form building inside the old plant for the new Culture Museum (Mudec), with no sharp edges and with luminous interior façades.
Designed to address contemporary languages focusing on anthropological aspects and on the overlap of tradition and knowhow, the museum complex will house artefacts of non-European cultures held in the city’s collections. It is composed of an arrangement of unfinished rectangular blocks spread over an area made available by the demolition of some abandoned structures.
The Mudec is a multidisciplinary center dedicated to the different cultures of the world and their legacies. Functioning on various levels, it aims to become a benchmark in the Italian panorama for research, dissemination and entertainment in the spheres of creativity and art.
The intercultural vocation driving it finds expression in the multifaceted possibilities offered for the visitor’s enjoyment: from the big international exhibitions, articulated through the various artistic languages of the contemporary, to the history of the hobby of collecting which arose from travel to faraway lands, or the City of Milan’s ethno-anthropological treasure in its collections, comprising over 7000 works of art and ordinary objects, fabrics and musical instruments from every continent, with dates ranging from 1200 B.C. all the way through the first half of the twentieth century.
Amongst the various buildings the one standing at number 36 is of particular interest, it has a passageway punctuated with light steel beams and large windows, plus, building number 16 is also noted as being an example of a real "great hall".
For a long time now the municipal council has been allocating seven pavilions of the ex-Ansaldo to the Teatro alla Scala, where the rehearsal stages, the archives of the 80,000 costumes, the carpentry and the canteen are all housed.
In recent years the former ex-Ansaldo has become a point of reference for the Fuorisalone events taking place during the Salone del Mobile Furniture Week and the Milanese Fashion Weeks.
Mudec exhibitions are open to the public: Monday (2.30-7.30 pm), Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday (9.30 am-7.30 pm), Thursday/Saturday (9.30 am-10.30 pm).