Campus Expo: Questions and Answers
This University’s potential in terms of research and training in the scientific arena is clear from the data, which prove its status as an unquestionable leader on the national scene. With approximately 7,000 new publications each year, 18 ERC projects, the University of Milan is the first in Italy, and amongst the top 100 universities in the world, for Life Sciences & Medicine, and in the top 10% of the most active university campuses in terms of research.
The idea of the Campus came from a new, radically innovative design method. The goal is to cultivate this potential, to position scientific and technological research at the University of Milan to take on the competitive challenges represented by the leading research institutions in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. These international institutions have, indeed, had a rapid trajectory towards increasingly inter-disciplinary and cross-sector approaches, making larger investments in streamlining and optimising their research infrastructure.
A campus built according to the highest international standards will allow our researchers, and our students, to work and study in more functional research and classroom spaces. These will be both innovative and attractive, positioned within an ecosystem that lends itself to innovation, with an international perspective, and able to generate synergies amongst different disciplines. A campus where knowledge is shared to benefit the community, and one complete with those features that define the campus environment or make it a better place to live and work: residence halls, cafeteria, spaces to come together and to socialise, parks, places to play sport, etc.
We tend to call it Città Studi, but actually the University’s scientific faculties are generally positioned between the Loreto and Segrate areas. Starting with the first historic nucleus of the campus, which dates back to before 1930 (Via Saldini, Via Mangiagalli, Via Celoria, Via Botticelli), other locations cropped up, first on the outskirts of the city, and then in the south-eastern quadrant of Milan. These were built over time as needs required, without a systematic plan.
The development of subsequent strata created a seriously fragmented campus, leading to widespread redundancy and inefficiency in the use of spaces. Many buildings are in a state of neglect where the efficiency and safety standards of efficiency and safety required of the modern laboratory cannot be ensured.
Città Studi represents an asset with great potential, of the utmost scientific value; however, today that potential is significantly compromised, hampered by inadequate structural conditions, and it’s the researchers’ work that suffers the consequences. Not only does this dampen their creativity, in some cases it actually jeopardises pending research.
A Campus located in the Expo area would benefit from a strategic location for transport, with existing infrastructure able to house study and research spaces that are both attractive and competitive. Plus, the area is large enough to accommodate the support services needed, including lodging, places to socialise, and to play sport and engage in volunteer work.
The positioning within a district dedicated to innovation, with a strong international bent (think of the Human Technopole) would promote the kind of synergies and cross-pollinations that help research and training activities thrive.
The facility’s flexibility would allow for experimentation with more sustainable building models and infrastructure, ones that are rational and efficient for research. It would also allow for lighter and more functional management models, and more innovative educational models. The creation of top-notch scientific-laboratory facilities, with instruments that might be shared amongst multiple departments, is a goal that would allow for research operations to be managed in an absolutely innovative way, with remarkable economies of scale.
The allocation of 130 million Euro from cohesion and development funds (from the government and the region, as part of the “Pact for Lombardy”) is explicitly intended for the development of a university campus in the Expo area.
The difficult spatial layout, and the attendant functional inefficiencies, the lack of adequate space for the needs of researchers coming from a variety of fields, not to mention space for social activities and residences, mean that Città Studi is simply a location incompatible with the structural and functional components typical of a university campus.
Setting aside the fact that no remodel could ensure the environmental conditions and characteristics, and synergies afforded by the Expo environment, the physical structure of Città Studi would make any restructuring efforts extremely challenging from any perspective, not only because of the types of buildings located there, but also because it is positioned in a residential and historic neighbourhood.
The historical-architectural value of some of these buildings (rightly) makes any true retrofitting impossible. The conservation needs run, clearly and naturally, counter to the needs of research, which instead requires spaces and infrastructure that are functional and compliant with international standards of efficiency.
Facilities that are suitable for modern scientific research (technological platforms, for example) do not always make good neighbours to a densely populated residential area. The hoods used in the Chemical and Pharmacy labs in Città Studi are turned off each night, and all experiments paused, which drastically protracts research timelines, in order to comply with demands made by residents.
To build a campus at Città Studi with characteristics akin to those contemplated for the former Expo 2015 area would be quite problematic, from a technical standpoint. It would require time, hardship, and a much higher budget. And in that case, we should note, the University would not be able to count on the budget allocation made for developing the Expo area grounds.
This option, besides forgoing the advantages of the university-campus model, would be no less burdensome to the University, and indeed it would be more difficult. First of all, the University would lose the public funding allocated to the investment in the Expo Area. Secondly, the restructuring of buildings in such a dilapidated state would require a much greater outlay of funds than new construction.
Furthermore, this type of solution would impact current research projects in a way that would be difficult to bear. Since the life and work of the nearly 20,000 persons who study and work in that area could hardly be put on hold, the restructuring of Città Studi would devolve into a miasma of partial retrofitting and safety updates “on a rota basis” spread across a timeline estimated at approximately ten years. Running the real risk that by project-end, the first buildings to be constructed would already be obsolete.
Researchers working in science and technology need modern infrastructure, laboratories that allow for operational continuity, without the fear of suspensions or damages caused by the inadequacy of the facilities hosting their work.
Within a scientific campus, there must be a nucleus of top-notch laboratories featuring instruments shared amongst multiple departments, and installed in such a way as to guarantee the optimal performance. That goal cannot be reached using obsolete, far-flung facilities.
Top-quality lab facilities will spark innovative management of the University's research resources. It will pave the way for other developments in the future, ones that will move our researchers from the fringes on the international scene.
Furthermore, by placing the campus within a district dedicated to innovation, we can promote a fertile, mutual cross-contamination between research and business, and further improve our relationship with industry.
Students will be able to work in places equipped with more modern infrastructure, designed according to the highest standards of optimisation, efficiency, and environmental sustainability. Spaces dedicated to classwork will be designed to allow for new learning techniques (based on active learning, teamwork, informal learning, and interaction amongst students and instructors of different disciplines) to be fully implemented, with the support of new technologies and a brand-new way of organising space.
The presence in the area of a science and technology district, along with a number of innovative companies, will create fertile grounds for cross-contamination with business development, not to mention contact with the job market.
The Campus’ proximity to Human Technopole – one of the essential conditions requested by the University of Arexpo as the Master Plan was generated – will allow students to conduct their own educational experience in an international environment, experimenting with cutting-edge research models in close contact with colleagues across the globe, to a degree as-yet unseen in Italy.
Finally, the Campus would allow for us, along with other impacted institutions, to create a residential plan for students, one that is finally free of the restrictions required in the more densely populated Città Studi.
The new campus allows for facilities (laboratories, libraries, etc.), which are currently quite far-flung, dotted across a huge area (running from the Loreto to the Segrate area, 10 km apart), to be consolidated.
The smaller footprint will support a more streamlined approach and the possibility of allowing for a radically innovative design, with infrastructure that is able to respond effectively to the needs of research and training at a high standard, whilst reducing energy consumption and environmental impact.
Consequently, regular maintenance costs would drop drastically for all buildings of the faculties to be moved, costs which at the moment hover around 18 million per year. The annual savings are forecasted to be about 8 million.
The concentration of activities in a smaller footprint will also have a positive ripple effect in terms of the possibility of generating greater synergies and collaborations within the many scientific communities hosted by the University of Milan.
No. As part of the project to build the campus in the Expo area, the University has planned new programmes and transfers that will translate into new construction at Città Studi, and which will then be bolstered by expansion projects, and the interest shown in the Polytechnic and Bicocca area.
In fact, in addition to the transfer of the training and research areas for cultural heritage, and from the fields of political science / economics / social sciences (which the interested faculties have approved), we would create a new science & museum hub dedicated to the contribution of science to human rights, based on forensic anthropology which would remain in Città Studi.