Green Island

Urban project, Photography, Architecture and Design

On Cities, Hortus and Wild Gardens


Zona Isola Milano (Italy)

Green Island is a project dedicated to urgent issues such as sustainibility, green areas, urban space. It is an active territorial lab, the first public art project at the ISOLA area in Milano. Conceived for the Art&Design Week, it takes place every year behind a transit place such as Garibaldi Railway Station, in collaboration with a wide network of creative art and craft laboratories, studios of artists, architects and designers.

The area is a very interesting socio-urbanistic district, at the backside of a railway station, near the centre yet separated from the rest of the city by a wall running between the neighbourhood and the railway tracks.

The renovation of the area started in 2002 with Green Island, transforming the grey concrete wall from a barrier into a “landscape” elemen by a large-scale of images as a “second skin”. The artists invited to contribute (architects, artists, designers and photographers) envisaged a project dedicated to green areas.

Platform 20 of the Garibaldi Railway Station became a new display, where objects of everyday use and art projects find a place for exhibition. Art and Crafts laboratories and artists’ studios open their doors and all came together to take part in the implementation of a “green” theme to the neighbourhood.

Out of these positive experiences, lots of new parallel projects are developed:

- Isola Talks&Walks, activities as urban recognition and reinterpretation with walks, meetings, conferences, held with the aim of experimenting common spaces of production and culture at Isola. 

UN'ISOLA, a video dedicated to ISOLA neighbourhood and Green Island event., the first and the only collective website with more than 120 local realities actively subscribed. The website  also offers a detailed map of the neighborugh.
-  MetroCultconceived by Cultural Department Provincia di Milano for good urban practises and the sharing of territorial projects.
-  ECO Isolaproject realized with a large network of creatives and designers, on recycle and re-use the everyday objects.
-  Oasi Verde Garibaldia special project by the architect Andrea Branzi,conceived as the first italian example of an hanging garden for the Garibaldi Train Station.
-  Vetrina&Designa special project for the windows shops of the area, to host design objects produced at the Master in Interactive Design on social and slow design (in collaboration with the IUAV University of Venice).
- DID - Distretto Isola Design, a network to valorise the highpoints of creativity and design in the Isola neighbourhood, linked in a circular route that stimulates environmental respect, the belonging to a local community, art, food, fashion and design. Exhibitions, performances, cocktails, music, debates, lectures for the development of the neighbourhood and a sustainable philosophy.

- The Mobile Garden, the edition ‘09 is dedicated to the artists Lois & Franziska Weinberger (Wien Austria). The project included a selection of plants and seeds from their ARCHIVE OF MEMORY dedicated to arboreal essences in danger of dying out and mainly coming from Eastern Europe. 

- The Urban Orchard, the edition ‘10 is dedicated to the Dutch Architect Ton Matton. The project consists of creating a beautiful and colorful "orchard" situated in the main hall of the Garibaldi Railway Station. The installation is made up of dozens of fruit trees planted in coloured pots and maintained with a special self-feeding system devised by the Dutch designer.

- The Green Public Librarythe edition ‘11 is dedicated to the first garden of wild plants in Milan. The project was realized at Cavalcavia Bussa (at the back of the Garibaldi Railway Station) with a series of green patches and botanical tables that decorate the wall along the garden, serving as a proper "book" for the spread and understanding  of these grass species.

- Flora Binaria, has seen the realization of a flowered carpet, mixing spring colours and vegetable garden’s flavours, anticipating the newest creative tendencies. The “Green Carpet” was located at the main entrance of Garibaldi Train Station in Milan and was designed in collaboration with RE.RURBAN ( The group of designers and green activists created the flowered carpet project in an attempt to confront nature and the local environment., and to map local spontaneous herbs.

- The Green Bike, the event, held in collaboration with the Dutch Embassy and Consulate General in Milan, is dedicated to slow and eco-friendly mobility, urban green areas, design and creativity. The main display areas were three international Bike Stores in Milano: Equilibrio Urbano, Rossignoli, Olmo where it was hosted exhibitions of art and design obejcts by Jan Gunneweg, Max Lipsey , Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters. The green walls installed made up of noise-absorbing systems, using mosses and plants, with vegetable species capable of purifying the air, as demonstrated by research carried out by the NASA.

- Landscaping(in collaboration with Dutch Embassy and Consulate General in Milan) is a project dedicated to urban green area and city gardens. The program consists of a series of innovative and sustainable urban actions made by young designers and artists and it will be introduced by the first photographic exhibition in Italy and the book presentation The Gardens of Piet Oudolf by Claudia Zanfi (Bolis edizioni) both dedicated to the well known landscape designer Piet Oudolf. At the Garibaldi Train Station it was displaied of original design chairs specially produced for the event by Floris Wubben (NL), with the use of tree branches and trunks. At Giardino del Terraggio the installation Shy Hive created for the garden by the group of designers and beekeepers Bee Collective (NL).

Up to now more than 150 artists and theoreticians took part in Green Island.

These 9 editions of Green Island have been supported by prestigious private, public and institutional partners, between the others: VirtualGallery, Modo Fotografia; Parametro; Museo Alessi; Politecnico di Milano; Provincia di Milano; Settore Verde Comune di Milano; Giardino degli Aromi, Geboing, VerdiSegni; Artigiani e Laboratori di via Pepe, via Pastrengo, via Borsieri, via Carmagnola - Zona Isola Milano; Cariplo Foundation, Milano; Centostazioni – Garibaldi Station, Milan; Urban Green Spaces Department of Milan City Council; the Culture Councillorship of the Province of Milan; the Alessi Museum; VerdiSegni; Milan Polytechnic Univeristy; Studio Matton, Berlin; the Dutch Embassy, Rome;  The Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam; Designersblock, London. 

Projects, text, images: A12; A4A; Archimuse; Costanza Algranti; Francesca Appiani; Aldo Ballo; Atelier Le Balto; Andrea  Branzi; Giorgio Barrera; 2A+P; Domenica Bucalo; Cantieri Isola; GIlles Clement; Cesare Colombo; Catherine David; Crtical Garden; Achille Castiglioni; Mario Cresci; F38F; Ettore Favini; Flying Grass Carpet; Futur System; Luigi Ghirri; Giorgio Grandi; Green Guerilla; Temporary Garden; Isola della Moda; HOV-David Raponi; Francesco Jodice; Andrea Lissoni; Marco Introini; Toyo Ito; ma-0; Ton Matton; Medusa Group; Maria Mulas; Bruno Munari; Michela Pasquali; Park Fiction; Boris Podrecca; Francesco Radino; Marco Romanelli; Paolo Rosselli; Aldo Rossi; Ciro Frank Schiappa; Ettore Sottssas; Alessandra Spranzi; Studio EU; Tom Trevor; Lois&Franziska Weinberger; Caterina Weiss; Silvio Wolf; Cristina Zamagni; Francesco Zucchetti

Street music by: Nunzio e la sua Band
Guided tours  by:Maria Vittoria Capitanucci, Politecnico di Milano
Conceived and edited by: Claudia Zanfi, direzione Atelier del Paesaggio

Milano Art & Design Week is the most important cultural event in Milano. Every year more than 250.000 visitors arrive in town; many of them are students from all over the world.