A sustainable smart district with Marazzi stoneware

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UpTown Milan is Italy's first smart district: completely carbon-free, it is already taking shape with the first homes constructed by SSA, Scandurra Studio Architettura and ZDA, Zanetti Design Architettura

The first free-planning development phase of the new UpTown district in Milan includes about 420 apartments, out of a total of two thousand homes to be completed by 2026. Built to the design of SSA, Scandurra Studio Architettura and Zanetti Design Architettura, the first two lots at Cascina Merlata – four towers and three linear blocks –, create an open residential system, seamlessly connected to the existing urban structure and landscape.

The new district features technological innovation – from communal car sharing to connectivity and CCTV – supplied by a pool of businesses that have created the infrastructure of the area of 900 thousand square metres, with 250 thousand of public parks, using the very latest technologies: the Euromilano innovation partners are Vodafone, Bosch, A2A, Samsung, WeShare'ngo and Clear Channel. “UpTown offers not only attractive homes in a pleasant, green context, including a 25 hectare park," confirms Euromilano CEO Attilio Di Cunto: "everything is designed to simplify residents' lives and ensure every experience is enjoyable. This is the aim of the digital solutions, which are perfectly in line with our philosophy. We view connectivity as a primary utility, on a par with water and electricity."

At the individual building level, homes are also equipped with the most modern home automation functions: digital services, communal gym, bilingual micro-crèche, co-working space and direct access to the large public park create a genuine ecosystem, with households' quality of life at its centre.

This is Italy's first entirely carbon-free district. The smart district does not use any natural gas: heating is provided by the fourth-generation waste processing at the nearby Figino incinerator and heating plant, and cooling by geothermal use of the aquifers. UpTown's environmental sustainability will be validated by GBC Italia (Green Building Council), making it the first Italian district to achieve global certification.

The quality of the complex's architecture is expressed in its strikingly individual compositional aspects, which seem to draw on earlier residential districts central to Milan's post-war architectural culture, and feature meticulously chosen materials and details.

The buildings all have a linking horizontal feature in the form of stringer elements that unify the residential units: large balconies, like outdoor rooms, are wrapped around many of their forms, and create a strong interaction with the surrounding green spaces.

A diaphragm system of gilded and bronzed plates constitutes a delicate barrier between indoors and outdoors and helps to transform the opaque masses into something luminous and light.

"For the complex's in-line facades," Umberto Zanetti of ZDA tells us, "we worked closely with Marazzi and its laboratory to develop new porcelain stoneware slabs with Ceppo di Gré finish, creating a customised material for the project which would offer a contemporary interpretation (in terms of size and production technology) of the great Milanese architectural tradition of the '50s, where this same stone, from the Gré quarries, was used to provide prestige and decoration".

The product developed for and applied in UpTown has been successfully added to the Marazzi catalogue in the Mystone Ceppo di Gré series. The series of slabs holds GreenGuard certification – the environmental product certification that measures an item's emission of about 400 harmful substances – and LEED accreditation, and is available in three different colour shades: anthracite, ash and white.