Years Of Leads


The living room of Milan edited by Daniel Ray per Idea Books Alessandro Rosso Incentive next story

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Years of leads

The swan song came in December of 1968. Snatches of foggy glacial and gloomy, rose in the Octagon, while the pigeons at home in the vaults remained still. The words punctuating the funeral oration were: “Long live Lenin, long live Stalin, long live Mao Tse-tung.” The student revolt now took centre stage, as youthful hordes of protesters armed with eggs and rotten fruit were in full cry. Mengoni’s great piece of architecture now came to be used as a “launching pad for the assault on exhibitionism and worldly display, as well as an escape route.”

  • Manifestation in the Gallery. Cesare Colombo, 1968
  • Cleared a manifestation against high rentals. (Toni Nicolini 1963).
  • Manifestation, Cesare Colombo, 1970

Forgetful of the designer’s original intended purpose, the Galleria ceased being a stylish, frivolous showcase between the sacred and profane. The times now decreed that it become the uneasy link between Piazza del Duomo – “the traditional place for demonstrations, rallies, knots of people engaged in spontaneous debate and dispute” – and Piazza della Scala, the site of Palazzo Marino, upholder of the civic virtues of Milan. The doors opened on a tumultuous decade, and the Galleria, dragged willynilly into politics, ended up one morning on the front page with a headline announcing: “Violent Scuffles in Galleria.” History was repeating itself.

The police returned to stand guard over the Octagon, now a stage for daily student protests and unruly extremists. The police force also helped preserve decorum in a time of mourning when Mengoni’s vaults became the wings of the funerals of the victims of the Piazza Fontana bomb massacre. Yes, history was repeating itself but in this unhappy time the Galleria forged its own rebirth, with the insurrection working to its advantage. The revolt and the reawakening of extremism called attention to its primary function: it was the heart of Milan, the temple where the city celebrated its events. And it had to be restored to life as such.

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