A new centre for architecture and design will be ‘auto-constructed’ in real time

Dropcity begins ‘live construction’ in Milan this month

In a ground-breaking example of adaptive reuse, a series of abandoned tunnels behind Milan’s Central Station have been co-opted for a platform of a different kind. Starting on 12 April, the subways will be reconstructed in real-time, through a hybrid blend of 3D printing and building partnerships, into a platform for ideas by the next generation of researchers, curators, architects and designers. The founder, architect Andrea Caputo, has called this creative think-tank Dropcity.

Throughout the year, Dropcity will develop into a desperately needed meeting place where architects and designers can collaborate through experimentation and innovation. While the interconnected tunnels are literally auto-constructing, they will host a schedule of exhibitions, talks, experiments, DJ sets and live architectural interventions, bringing to life the processes, technologies and thinking shaping contemporary creative life. Part urban cultural centre, part research cluster, the centre will build off the city’s rich architectural and design heritage, providing an accessible ‘third space’ for the next generation of architects and designers.

With more than 12,000 practicing architects in Milan, and many more designers, a place to cultivate dialogue is essential. In this expanse of nearly 10,000 square metres, they can imagine better ways of practising, cultivating new ideas and facilitating their materialisation. The sheer space will be able to accommodate robotics, advanced prototyping, carpentry workshops, exhibition space and offices, plus a civic architecture library and a growing materials database.

After a major storm in 2023 felled several local trees, causing damage to the infrastructure, Caputo answered a government call to reimagine the spaces. His plan to incorporate the trees into the tunnels’ internal roofs helped secure the project. To help in the reconstruction, he’s recruited experts from Germany’s Kiel University and Tbilisi-based building collective SOCII, as well as Italian 3D-printing leader WASP, which will design modular partition walls and blocks that can be assembled together. Visitors to the site will be able to watch the space being built around them.

‘We are living amidst a paradigm-shift era, where traditional structures of designing, living and believing are being exposed as obsolete,’ says Caputo. ‘The need is set for a systemic transformation of design and architecture oriented by pluralism and cooperation, and we hope Dropcity will contribute to this movement.’

Dropcity is scheduled to open permanently in the fall of 2024. The materials library and public library will open to the public in 2025.

Photography: Piercarlo Quecchia
Photography: Piercarlo Quecchia

Read next: Is ‘boring architecture’ making us depressed? Thomas Heatherwick thinks so

Robots are building a ‘Lord of the Rings’ style tower in the Swiss Alps



Share Tweet