Officine del Volo is based in the historical building which once hosted former Caproni aircraft factory in Milan, Italy during World Wars; a real witness of cultural, social and economic innovations of the early 20th century. The history of this location is deeply connected to engineer Gianni Caproni, who designed his first aircraft on the 27th May 1910. He established his activity in Vizzola Ticino in 1913, then moved it two years later to the area around the Taliedo district, close to Via Mecenate, where he decided to give life to his factory.
He precisely chose this area due to its proximity to the aerodrome of Milan of that time, which hosted speed races in 1910 already. Furthermore, the ability to easily find labour – thanks to the strategic position of the complex really close the city - and the presence of a tramway network, were the key points for the establishment of Caproni's company.
Officine Aeronautiche Caproni soon became one of the leading aviation companies of the world.
In this area Caproni created an industrial village with the purpose of offering his employees wellness and professional training. The structure included also a nursery school for employees’ children as well as dedicated kitchens, service buildings and the so called "OND - National Recreational Club", a leisure centre intended only for the employees of Caproni. An amateur newspaper was started by workers and named "Senza Cozzar di Rocco" by famous legendary poet, writer and intellectual Gabriele D'Annunzio. The company especially grew during the First and Second World Wars thanks to the manufacture of war aircrafts. After the First World War, the demand really dropped, therefore Caproni started the production of civil aircrafts, establishing the first passenger flights along Milan - Rome - Naples routes at the Taliedo Airport between 1919 and 1922.
Officine Caproni was the largest aircraft manufacturing complex of the time: it employed 45.000 workers and accounted for 25% of the national production and 40% of the international exports.
At the end of the Second World War, the economic crisis and the deep damages caused by wars bombing culminated in the closing of the company. In 1951 the activity stopped and in 1955 it officially went into liquidation. The following industrial settlement started with the fragmentation of the whole complex which hosted different industrial activities in the end.
In 2003, architect Nicola Gisonda began a project of restoration of a company segment, creating Officine del Volo two years after.
Officine del Volo were established in 2003 thanks to a restoration and reconversion project lasted two years and started by architect Nicola Gisonda, who opted for the renewal of buildings instead for their destruction and reconstruction.
Based on the concept of philological renovation developed by Camillo Boito, one of the most important architects of the second half of the 19th century, what could be preserved has been kept, while new contemporary and design elements were introduced, such as the large iron outdoor staircase which looks like a suspended gangway; the fence made up of bent weathering steel sheet, recalls the outline of an airplane pushed by the wind; the lift, characterised by a modern look, made of crystal and steel.
The philological restoration revolved around the following issues:
This project leads to an extraordinary journey full of sensations from the city of the aircraft manufacturing industry to a modern metropolis, from the creativity of the early 20th century to the current functionality.
Info: Officine del Volo – Un progetto di Nicola Gisonda. Restauro di un’architettura industriale per nuove funzionalità.
Authors: Maria Antonietta Crippa, Ferdinando Zanzottera, Gianluca Lapini, Carlo Capponi
Photos taken by Gabriele Basilico and Matteo Piazza
"Officine del Volo – un progetto di Nicola Gisonda. Restauro di un’architettura industriale per nuove funzionalità" by Maria Antonietta Crippa, Ferdinando Zanzottera, Gianluca Lapini, Carlo Capponi; photos by Gabriele Basilico, Matteo Piazza; Silvana Editoriale
"Le Officine del Volo: significativo caso di restauro dell'architettura industriale del XX secolo a Milano" by Ferdinando Zanzottera in Riprogettare l'Archeologia, edited by Rotaract Club Milano, pag. 43-46.
"Luoghi" di Vito Redaelli in Storie Industriali - Passato e presente nel sud est di Milano, edited by Stefania Aleni, Vito Redaelli, pag. 36-38.
"Officine del Volo" in Industrial Chic - Reconverting Spaces by Mariarosa Tagliaferri, Edizioni Gribaudo, pag. 138-145.