From Post-Industrial City to the New Urban Campus

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Knowledge is undeniably one of the most valuable resources a city needs to nurture and attract, in order to innovate in a field of global competition. This requires connectivity and collaboration and is stimulated through flexible, diverse and welcoming environments. This is the new urban campus: where higher education and entrepreneurship are integrated with housing that meets the needs of the younger cohorts of talent.

Julie Wagner, former senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and president of Urban Insight, emphasizes the role of higher education institutions in the city: “In the vast majority of innovation districts globally, universities play a central role. They are the locus of a growing intellectual class, they have (or many do) have extensive R&D portfolios that are driving innovation, they are naturally connected globally and locally offering that important perspective to discussions, and they increasingly, have a role in growing and supporting start-ups.”

Everywhere in Europe opportunities for urban campuses that aggregate mobile talent are popping up. Abandoned, former industrial areas become creative and innovative knowledge hotbeds, ‘concrete playgrounds’ emerging from open and integrated ecosystems in the post-industrial city. It is impossible to imagine the current European urban landscape without transformative locations attracting a new generation of start-ups such as Station F in Paris, Hub Creativo do Beato in Paris, Factory in Berlin and Talent Garden in Milan.

Milan is currently presented with the unique opportunity of realizing large scale regeneration projects in abandoned railyards located in incredibly strategic locations. They offer the advantages of every urban planner’s dreams: cultural heritage, scale, vacancy, infrastructure and a vibrant city center in the near vicinity. An opportunity Matteo Fantoni, founder of Matteo Fantoni Design Studio, is eager to explore further: “In Italy, there is a lot to be done in terms of re-use of derelict spaces and volumes and reactivating existing structures and under-used spaces. In the last few years Milan has developed substantially with new architecture, refurbishment of existing structures and remodeling of urban voids – creating a new enriched social pattern.” And there is still space and momentum for growth. Milan is showing the way to other Italian cities: “Italy is moving, but Milano is doing so at a different speed”, says Politecnico Milano’s vice rector Emilio Faroldi.

The Italian higher education landscape and student housing market, traditionally undersupplied, offer a lot of potential and are increasingly international. Students pursue an experience-driven lifestyle facilitated by an integrated living environment, as Andrea Cavanna, CEO of Gastameco explains: “Young students, travelers and professionals aim to live an authentic experience in connection with the city and local people. Our role is to design shared spaces that are able to encourage meaningful connections and exchange of ideas between like-minded people”. A limited offer of English-taught programs no longer seems to ward off international students completely, and the possibilities for internationalization of the higher education system are boundless.


The emergence of the new urban campus and a future generation of urbanites with changing needs in a time of reimagining cities, is at the heart of The Class Conference 2018 in Milan: “From Post-Industrial City to the New Urban Campus”. The conference is taking place on November 14 and 15 and explores how former industrial, neglected areas are being transformed into knowledge hubs and the brightest beacons of innovation. You will be joined by no less than 700 senior executives in real estate investment & development, student housing operators, international higher education experts and governmental leadership in urban planning & economic affairs. Don’t miss out and register now with a special Platform friend promo code ARCH2020 to enjoy a 20% off your 15th November ticket:

Annalisa Guerisoli

Annalisa Guerisoli

Instagram addicted, appassionata di luoghi abbandonati, mi cibo di viaggi e di nutella. Astenersi fan dell'uncinetto e del cucito.

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