'New Farms for EXPO' is a practical research project that questions urban renewal, and foster new opportunities for urban re-activation both within Milan and throughout the rest of Europe.



‘New Farms for EXPO’ was an international multidisciplinary project organized in collaboration with the Netherlands Embassy in Rome and the Netherlands General Consulate in Milan. The research focuses on the reactivation of vacant municipal farmhouses, the so called “cascine”, located within the territory of Milan. The re-use of this public heritage and its involvement in the long term urban dynamics become, throughout the project, the fundamental element of social, cultural and entrepreneurial initiatives.

A week of workshops paired with a program of meetings and debates were organized in Milan to discuss the re-use of abandoned buildings, and the relation between the contemporary city and the countryside. This dialogue explored ways to re-use these derelict places, questioning urban renewal, and fostering new opportunities for urban re-activation both within Milan and the rest of Europe. 

Bicycle field trip at Cascina Campazzo, Milan 2015. Photograph by Alessandra Di Consoli©


Milan and its surrounding areas remain as one of the main agricultural centers in Europe – a fact that is often overlooked by those encountering the city for the first time. The rapid urban expansion during the late nineteenth century led to Milan losing over half of its agricultural land which was formerly managed by the cascine. Today, the urban farms that remain are scattered around the outskirts of the city. These publicly-owned cascines represent an invaluable asset for Milan that goes far beyond their role in documenting Milan’s agricultural past: thanks to their advantageous locations, their existence also creates potential hubs for the care and maintenance of the social fabric of Milan’s urban periphery. This project seeks to trace back Milan’s agricultural history and highlight the importance of this heritage for the modern day citizens of Milan. It is through this research that we uncovered the 62 farms currently owned by the Municipality of Milan, some of which are abandoned and in a state of decay (20), others are still functioning and agriculturally productive (11), some have been converted to variations of housing, with various associations and non-profit organizations involved with social services (27), and several whose use has been defined as ‘private’ (4).

New Farms for Expo is comprised of 3 phases: research, a series of public events and workshops, and a publication.


A first research phase involved a selection of Italian and Dutch experts in the field of architecture, urban design and metabolism, storytellers, activists and economists in a series of 13 video-interviews. We met with Andrea Volsa (CasciNET) Eric Frijters (Fabrications), Thomas Dieben (KRFT), Kristian Koreman (ZUS), Mark Slegers (RotterZwam), Marthijn Pool (Space&Matter), Jaap Draaisma (Urban Resort), Robbert Nesselaar (Rotterdam Partners), Isabella Inti (Temporiuso), Enrico Murtula (Municipality of Milan), Ingeborg Thoral (MIXTS Urbanisme), Jan Jongert (Superuse Studios), Giulia Pesaro and Dario Musolino (Bocconi University). These interviews, realised between January and May 2016, have prepared the field for an international workshop that took place in Milan, with a new selection of experts and students. 

Click on the image above to watch the interviews in our video section or visit our vimeo channel to find out more.


The international workshop took place between the 24th-30th of June 2015, in one of the farms belonging to an organization that is part of Associazione Cascine Milano: Cascina Corte San Giacomo. Side activities were organized at the Board of Architects of Milan headquarters. The workshops included the participation of a selection of international experts coming from different fields: architecture, engineering, urban economics, urban studies, agronomy, environmental science, etc. It was organized around three different working groups, each consisting of 5-6 participants, and these were coordinated by international tutors and local experts producing a series of proposal and strategies for the re-activation of a selection of farms, located in the periphery of the city. 

Each group focused on the re-activation of the cascine, and tutors and students alike worked together on the three interconnected topics of the workshop: New Economies – a group lead by Thomas Dieben (NL), Dario Musolino (IT) and Giulia Pesaro (IT), New Metabolic Networks – a group lead by Isabella Inti (IT) and Jan Jongert (NL), and New Brand & Storytelling  lead by Valentina Paruzzi (IT) and Michiel van Iersel (NL).


‘Re-Act: Tools for Urban Re-Activation’ is a publication that focuses on the re-activation of abandoned, neglected, unused public and private areas on the European scale. The publication presents a series of interviews from a selection of experts directly involved in the realization of projects and initiatives of urban regeneration, and a selection of successful case studies situated throughout Europe. You can purchase the book here.

 Compilation of photographs from the New Farms for EXPO event in Milan, 2015. Images by Alessandra Di Consoli©

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