The seven building complex was made in the late 1950s and was meant to replace the previous premises of the Opera Pia Istituti Marchiondi-Spagliardi e Protezione dei Fanciulli institution, whose purpose it was to host “difficult or temperamental” youths.
The institution was closed at the end of the 1970s and became a professional school in the following years.
The City of Milan took it over in 1997.
Today only a small part of it is used by the Municipal social services while most of the complex is strongly degraded. The structure has been used as a shelter for homeless, immigrants and drug addicts, and has been evacuated by the police several times.
Many plans have been proposed, but no decision has been taken on the future of this building yet: the city has no funds to restructure it and rumors have it that it will be given to the International School of Milan but have all been denied. Anyway the restrictions on cultural heritage makea it difficult to find potential buyers. The latest news is that the Politecnico di Milano would like to use it as premises for its historical archives.
Considered one of the masterpieces of the “brutalist” age, the Marchiondi Institute is the evidence of a historical period, an independent current, a language that was controversial and at the same time respectful of the history of modern architecture, as well as of a peculiar use of materials.
In his project Viganò tries to overcome the strict and oppressive idea, popular at the time it was built, of an institute for youths with family problems or other difficulties, and his objective is to create a civilized building without surrounding walls, bars to the windows, control bodies and the other “antisocial” elements of the previous building.
Viganò has reserved two thirds of the area for vegetation, conceiving this place as an open space in close relation with the green.
The plan is simple and neat: the free layout makes it easy to understand the great functionality of the work. The paths are well separated, so there is no interference among the users.
The huge dormitories of the old premises have been replaced by cosier 12 bed rooms, while educators do not live in the same place, and have a hotel-building separated from the dormitories: only a couple of guards spend the night in small rooms at the end of the floors.
The collective living areas are equipped with furnishings for gatherings of small or large groups, and also house bars and kiosks for the young people. Moreover, there are plenty of living areas outdoors, which are equipped for playing and recreation.
Each boy has his own lockers, cabinets and personal desk.
The plan is developed according to a 3x5 meter grid, while vertically, the height is 2.50, 3.50 or 5 meters. In the passage and service areas, the height is 2.20 meters.
Pillars and beams have a stretched-out rectangular section and the junction between vertical and horizontal elements is quite interesting: pillars have an extension that stretches up to the top of the beams, indicating that their function is not only supporting the beams, but also preventing their side from slipping. There are also some supporting partitions and head walls in some buildings, and it should also be noted that an attempt maximum flexibility has been made by getting rid of internal pillars whereever possible.
The most satisfactory result for the architect and the best indication for society is that none of the youths has ever tried to escape from this institute in spite of the abolishment of the control systems: architecture has managed to model itself and interpret a function, or a mission, providing a free and explicit educational language, just like that proposed by the brutalist current.
How to get there:
Overground lines: 58-18-63
Attilio Stocchi, Vittoriano Viganò. Etica brutalista, Testo&Immagine, Torino 1999
Renato Pedio, Il nuovo Istituto Marchiondi a Milano, in L'architettura cronache e storia n. 40, 1959
Renato Pedio, Itinerario di Vittoriano Vigano Architetto, in L'architettura cronache e storia n. 166, 1969