Same old story in Milan: The destruction of Isola

Foto: Paola Di Bello

In crossing the Isola neighborhood in Milan, whoever knows Barcelona suffers a kind of déja vu. The same buildings, the same companies, the same destruction as in Poblenou in 2004. Nouvel is replaced by Boeri, and the Universal Forum of Cultures with the Expo 2015.

Everything else is exactly the same: a workers’ neighborhood, inhabited by migrants from the South, segregated from the center of the city (hence the name isola, island), during decades had been targeted for demolition; the bulldozers only entered the neighborhood in the beginning of the 2000s, after structural adjustment programs and political demobilization. The complete demolition of Isola was first proposed in the General plan of 1953, but massive destruction began only sixty years later. Then artists and activists gathered in an old factory they called La Stecca degli artigiani, to promote protests and alternative uses of space (remember Can Ricart?). The Stecca was demolished in 2007, on the anniversary of Italy’s liberation from Fascism. Now a collective book, “Fight-Specific Isola” explains the 12-year struggle against demolitions, and the long decades of neighbors’ opposition against gentrification.

Laura Burocco, Gentrilogy – Episode Milan (2015)

Bert Theis, one of the authors of the book Fight Specific Isola died in mid-September. He was an inspiration for all the cultural project of the neighborhood. This article commemorates his memory.