"The city is being swept away by the metropolis. This action does not just replace one noun with another, but radically turns one state of affairs into a state of perpetual motion. As a collective action -- a verb more than a noun -- the metropolis destabilizes our concepts of time and place. With the dissolution of the city into the forever- emerging metropolis, our existence slides into permanent mobility." - L. Lerup, in After the City


forty. Milano, I.
it’s dusk and from the balcony of my blessed ‘budget’ hotel in Milan, i can see to the northwest the blinking lights of Gio Ponti’s elegant Pirelli tower. it's one of the few buildings in the city that breaks the architectural status quo (ten storeys, heavy-wooden door which opens into idyllic courtyard, relatively flat street facades) which blankets the city in understated harmony. airplane trails criss-cross the sky, with Malpensa airport to the west, Linate to the east, and budget-minded Bergamo to the northeast. this sky-bound spider’s web simply mimics in a transverse fashion what happens below on the ground radially, where three different rail systems weave their ways through the cityscape, both below and above ground, interlaced with the linear divets of an ancient (and still vital) tram system. (these tramrails unfortunately don’t work so well with the bicycles, whose wheels become ensnared in the grooves). there is a heavy hum of dinnertime voices at this hour, as most apartments turn inwards toward a courtyard space, voices reverberating off the walls of close neighbors.

nonetheless, Italy’s financial and fashion capital is currently unhurried; to be here in early August when the city is beginning to empty out in search of sun and surf was an oversight on my part, but such is the timing of travel and between Jo’burg and Moscow, perhaps Italy’s tasty couture provides welcome old-world eye and mouth candy. moreover, as stores close and the white-collar classes escape the waning days of summer, what is left is interesting in its own right: fashion-conscious holiday shoppers, basilica-ogglers, and of course, the working and immigrant classes who will profit from being the ones to cater to the tourist’s Milan when everyone else has drawn their shutters. surprisingly, for every glass-and-gilded shopping avenue in the city there is a street market somewhere, usually further from the city centre (marked by the city’s ornate Duomo), where wardrobes and perishables are on sale from Southeast Asian, African, Sri Lankan, et. al, vendors. within this less-formal consumer space there are gradients; those who cannot afford a stall loiter on the sidewalk, or street corner, their goods in hand or spread out on the concrete. the standard of living here is extremely high, but the public parks serve as subtle shelter for the evening’s homeless who sit inconspicuously at dusk on the benches, waiting for the haven of nightfall and the locking of the gates from without. i surmise that at such time, fountains become a place to wash, and wonder if the civility of the city-by-day gives way to any unspoken micro-territorial possessiveness.

Milan may get a bad name for being all work and no play, but this doesn’t negate the fact that over much of the city’s terrain you usually have, within arm's reach: cafe, bar, eatery, gelateria, public transit stop – arguably, like any good Italian city. here the tree, the median, and the sidewalk table-for-two reign supreme, the median becoming, through the shade of copious foliage, a space for parking, a space for sitting, or a space for public transit. the ‘squares’ as it were, save for the most traditional of them near the city center, are often simply a swelling of these medians into an elongated ellipse. add playground or cafe and voila: another piazza, sans cobblestone and church but a respite nonetheless.

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