Milan, 2022: “You remember, don’t you? When one would go to Lambrate, for basically no reason, just for the sake of being there”. Meanwhile, in Turin, the residents of the most neglected suburban areas reject another visiting contemporary art project, “which will be gone in a year anyway, leaving nothing as usual”. A few hours later, the sun will rise on New York, on the generic glass balconies of those recent average-high-rises, in Long Island City and west of Williamsburg, a built epilogue to that hectic blossoming of small workshops, clubs and shops that 20 years ago had reactivated those then undefined banks of the East River, spreading the hipster word across the planet.
Then back to Milan. Here, the major limitations of temporary placemaking are now in plain sight, the Design Week pageant seems to have got the message only partially, but in any case, even among the Milanese, a question circulated that would have sounded strange a few days ago: “So: what about Baranzate?”
For those who might have happened no to see them, the so-called Baranzate Ateliers were the most unprecedented takeover of this year’s Fuorisalone, and not only in terms of distance from the city center: 3000 square metres of a warehouse owned by Necchi, out of any quadrant or district, no restoration work, a large showroom for the collector’s pieces made by 23 designers, with tapestries and marble tables standing and hanging above the cracked concrete floors, a dancefloor in the control room, a small entryway through a hole in the wall, announced by an aisle made of camper vans.
One more temporary Design Week wonder, a bridgehead for gentrification on increasingly unlikely fronts (like “Cinisello is the new Brera”)? It ain’t necessarily so.
Baranzate Ateliers does not come from nowhere. Curated by Belgian designer, artist and interior architect Lionel Jadot, Zaventem Ateliers is a project that transforms dismissed industrial spaces into “a designer's nursery”, as Jadot himself tells us. In the reclaimed space, a team is selected by a board of curators – by creative approach and the good vibe that might be generated – to take over the places, growing up together, contaminating their methods and inspirations, often activating common projects, sharing everything horizontally, from spaces to expenses to even clients.
Zaventem Atleiers focuses on collectible design, and puts designers and customers in direct contact, “it is not a design market, there is something much more vital holding it all together”, says Jadot.
It is a system, a concept of sharing that the creators had already tried to show last year during Milan Design Week, but in the city, in spaces that were immediately perceived as inadequate; Alessandra Necchi then proposed the structures she owns of a former printing facility in Baranzate, on whose future reuse she was already working. And finally for Fuorisalone 2022 the Milanese Zaventem Ateliers have seen the light: “Way beyond a simply positive balance” confirms Jadot “a large number of visitors has come, people who appreciated both the brutality of the intact place and the quality of what this place was housing”.
What now? “Now we will have to dismantle the exhibition, but we are already planning with Necchi to ensure that the project has a follow-up, it is going to be a process of raising funds bust most of all of selecting funders, in order to reuse the Baranzate spaces in some alternative to real estate speculation”, which is nowadays a classic. “For this reason, in order to be able to activate that same spirit of Zaventem Ateliers here in Milan as well, it is necessary that the investment is not excessively attractive, from a financial point of view”.
It is not a form of charity that is sought, but some enlightened form of investment, Jadot goes on to explain, “subjects are needed, and there are some, who have resources to place and the intention to place them in meaningful projects, producing sense”. This attitude broadens the view to a vision of the city, to a mode for its growth that could be, critical of the speculative mechanisms often driven by temporary events and interventions: something more structural and nourishing for the entire urban body.
In any case, the core value remains rooted in the Zaventem/Baranzate concept, says Jadot, which could be set up in any city, as long as it has an industrial production legacy, in order to activate that dynamic of “recycling” of spaces and circularity of practices that we could taste for a few days in Baranzate. And this is something you’ll be updated about by us, as soon as the next chapter starts, in something that is seemingly not destined to end with the end of another Design Week.