New spaces for cultural work, between sharing and hybridisation

After spending months working at home, new creative realities are investigating the new potential of offices, preferring more flexible places, contaminated by other disciplines. In Milan, Superattico and DOPO? are setting this new standard.

Like almost all working environments, the operational rhythm of architecture and design studios has been forcibly changed - when not stopped - by the long months of quarantine spent intermittently since the beginning of the health crisis. But this mandatory stop of an entire sector, closed without warning within the walls of the home, was also and above all an opportunity to pause and reflect on new ways of working and the new potential of physical space. In Milan, the young architecture collectives took the ball and decided to exploit this moment of uncertainty.

Designer Luigi Savio – head of the creative agency ab(Normal) – together with colleagues Margherita Marri, Jacopo Rosa (Captcha), Martina Corbella (Pale Blue Dot), and Filippo Oppimitti, opened in the middle of the pandemic Superattico, hybrid space in the center of Milan, now the new working headquarters of the collectives but not only. “We took this space right after the first lockdown for a trivial matter of necessity,” Savio tells Domus. “At that time, we were all working in our respective homes, either sharing or in a studio apartment of a few square meters where we didn’t even have the possibility of a space where we could make calls. We realized that we needed to get a place to work, if only as an excuse to get out of the house during periods of isolation. We found this space a little by luck, a little by the drop in rent costs, in an area surrounded by several professional realities close to us.” 

(ab)Normal, Captcha and Pale Blue Dot, Superattico, Milan, via Eustachi 40. Photo Piercarlo Quecchia

Located in via Eustachi 40, Superattico is immediately noticeable by its eye-catching presence on the street front: a small room with a functional loft space at the bottom and a bulky table sculpture that can be divided into three to host the three independent realities. “The idea was born from the simple desire to rent an office, but the opportunity to have a storefront on the street was too good not to take advantage of it, so we immediately pulled up a possible calendar that revolves around architecture and speculative design,” continues the dialogue Margherita Marri. “From the beginning, there was this tension of holding multiple things together. We basically wanted to keep three levels together: a place to rest and work daily, an exhibition space, and the bookstore. Obviously, for the small space available we couldn’t think of a complex exhibition system, but more of a program that works on emerging practices, which have, thanks to this place, the possibility to exhibit their work and connect with the world of contemporary galleries thanks to the street front. It’s a physical platform where we just manage the infrastructure.”

“The third element is the library. Those who come to exhibit with us have the opportunity to provide us with the bibliography that constitutes the conceptual framework of their work, which is then acquired within the library. So to a person who visits the exhibition and does not have money to buy books, we offer the immediate possibility to study it and go deeper into it”. Since its opening, the space has already hosted Sacrifice, an exhibition by Adjustments Agency that explores the ritual underpinnings of architectural inauguration ceremonies and their translation into the world of corporate finance, and Echos, a photography exhibition curated by Carolina Sartori.

(ab)Normal, Captcha and Pale Blue Dot, Superattico, Milan, via Eustachi 40. Photo Piercarlo Quecchia

There will also be a series of talks and public meetings in the intimate space, along with the exhibition program, but at a completely different scale from that of large cultural institutions. “Here, there are twelve of us meeting and chatting. We find ourselves more in the informal meeting between friends than in the institutionality of the big incubators. This very close relationship with people erases the limit of the threshold. Very often people pass by, they get curious and ask us what we do, retracting that huge disconnect that exists between those who need a professional in architectural needs and this caste of intellectuals or spacial practitioners who deal in depth.”

Far from the city centre, but not from this new trend, we find DOPO? space, due to open officially on 12 March. An initiative by Bianca Felicori, Carlotta Franco, Salvatore Peluso, Fosbury Architecture, Parasite 2.0, and Plasticity – realities that have closely collaborated with Luigi Savio and Margherita Marri during the summer workshop The Possibility of an Island, now in its second edition.


Radically different from the domestic dimension of Superattico, the architecture of DOPO? is obtained from a former workshop located between the Corvetto and Porto di Mare underground stations. “Dopo?” is a question whose answers may or may not exist. Inspired by the professional organisations that used to carry out recreational activities at the end of the working day, the concept was born from the desire to investigate the issues of work in the contemporary world,” they say in their manifesto. It is a multifunctional space that hosts professionals from all sectors during working hours: designers, set designers, architects, and researchers.

It is a place to work but also a place to meet, with workshops, independent studios and desks in a space shared with professionals from different sectors. The collaborative work model envisaged – which is a newness in the already saturated co-working space market – is intended to be a pole of attraction for the city, capable of generating new and continuous flows of users and making the neighborhood known to a broader public.

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