Formerly Vacant Lot in Milan Wins ‘Reinventing Cities’ Contest With Vineyard Atop Building With Public Sidewalk


The new headquarters for the molecular and oncology research center ICOM will be centered within 5,000 square meters of green public spaces—including a 650-foot long vineyard.

The grapevines will snake their way up the side of the Milan building in a shallow ramp, and will act as the centerpiece of a footpath that starts on the street and reaches all the way up to the roof as part of an effort to link humans in cities back to nature.

It’s all part of project VITAE from architecture firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA), which took first place at the C40 Reinventing Cities Contest for their design that includes outdoor spaces, the ICOM center, a farm-to-table restaurant, high-tech office space, and even greenhouses.

The spiral of terraced greenery, including the vineyard and hydroponic gardens, is what gave the project its name, a Latin word for both “life” and “vine.”

This grand design will be built in the south of Milan in an abandoned post Industrial-era lot off via Serio, and construction started in 2019.

“VITAE tries to address humankind’s innate ‘biophilia,’ as formulated by the great American biologist Edward O. Wilson,” Saverio Panata, partner at CRA and project manager of VITAE, told Inhabitat.

“We are talking about the natural tendency of our species to seek our happiness through immersion in nature. Thanks to new technologies, it is now possible to achieve this goal even in the heart of the city—this is particularly relevant in a building that is devoted to scientific research.”

A Curriculum of Vitae

The building is all about the green. As well as containing the double-helix-DNA-inspired walkway, 95% of the energy will come from renewable sources including geothermal and PV solar panels.

A rainwater catchment and grey water salvage facility will ensure the building wastes as little water as possible, while low-carbon building strategies and electric mobility solutions will continue to remove CO2 from the balance sheet.

The Serio project, according to C40, is going up in the Scalo Romana area of the city, an older, partially run-down area that is experiencing a regeneration through new ideas in architecture and city planning.

The Prada Foundation art complex is located in Scalo Romana, and is now one of the most important artistic sites in the city, while Serio will sit less than two miles from the Duomo.

A 20-hectare (54 acre) disused railway yard, the Porta Romana, is one of the most important areas for future innovation and development in the city, and it sits just 250 meters from the Serio VITAE building, placing it at the heart of the city’s regenerative efforts.