Inge de Boer from Milan, Italy

How would you describe its inhabitants? 

A mix of people, from the cliché Milanese well dressed (not on Saturday as jogging trousers seem to be obligatory for many), to the real Milanese born and raised here, to the new Milanese, both immigrants from others parts of the country and from abroad.

Why do you love your city? 

Milan is small in size but has lots to offer, both for culture lovers as well as those who like to go out and discover new bars and restaurants. The size allows you to do everything by bike (although not many Milanese have realized this). An extra advantage is that the mountains can be reached within an hour and the Mediterranean sea in an hour and a half.

What’s the best place in your city and why?

30 minutes from the heart of the city, you find the Martesana canal which is the perfect place for some running, a bike ride or a simple stroll in the afternoon. A nice place for a coffee, lunch or aperitivo, a great place to relax and forget about the bustle in the city.

What can we learn from your city in terms of city making?

Although Milan traditionally demolishes the past in order to start a new future, they now have realised the importance of the reuse of existing buildings and the existing urban layout. One of the most exiting examples is the upcoming redevelopment of the former railway goods-handling system. This will happen in the next years. Maintaining and introducing green here will be an important issue.

What’s the biggest challenge your city is facing? 

The city has to deal with the bad air-quality, caused by the intensive use of cars, the central heating systems in the buildings (often using oil as fuel) and the industries in the Po Plane. The municipality is already taking action by introducing car and bike-sharing services and limiting the access to the historic centre, but I believe there is way more that needs to be done.

But besides that, the city is also dealing with problematics in some (more peripheral) neighbourhoods. Difficulties in this area have to do with unemployement, low wages, social difficulties, etc. One of the solutions the municipality is implementing in these areas is improving the quality of the apartment blocks (or ‘condominio’). Many of them are constructed in the fifties, sixties and seventies and especially the ones owned by the traditional social housing cooperations often urgently need to be renovated and adapted to the current demands. At the same time they do interventions on social levels, supporting people in difficulty with services meant to improve their situation. The work of these neighbourhoods will have to continue on the next years or even decennia and different solutions might be necessary.

Why should BRAND open a flexible office in your city and who would be our first client?

The municipality of Milan that has to deal with a growing number of tourists. They need to be better prepared to host and receive them and make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand.