Innovation District

26 Apr 2023

4 min

A new way of planning and living the city by MCA - R&D Unit

Innovation Districts are new urban models that are establishing themselves across the world: geographical areas where cutting-edge companies and organisations are concentrating and connecting where startups, business incubators, and accelerators are operating and doing research in different sectors. These are actual places: physically compact pieces of urban fabric that are accessible and are well provided with infrastructure thanks to an efficient transport network. They offer a new centrality, thanks to the intrinsic characteristics that are offered by a multiplicity of functions and spaces that favour interaction and exchange.

These new neighbourhood models become incubators of economic, physical, and networking resources: three pillars which when they combine, create an innovation ecosystem that translates into a synergistic relationship between people, companies and place, understood as the physical geography of a district that facilitates the generation of ideas and accelerates its business activity.

Innovation Districts Features by MCA

From a strategic viewpoint, the aim of the project for the Milan Innovation District is to create a new urban space based on solid principles of sustainability.

Constant research in this field, carried out by MCA’s R&D Unit in synergy with Lendlease, has made it possible to bring to light the sustainability pillars that represent the drivers of change for this new concept of city and which are manifested concretely in the urban space, as the physical assets.

The physical assets define all the characteristics that will have the ability to improve the quality of life of users from an environmental, social, and economic point of view. Furthermore, they delineate a new urban model based on principles of energy efficiency, climate action, wellbeing, community, and innovative design, in light of the changes that our cities will face.

Categories by MCA

To reduce to zero the waste of resources in the design and construction of the masterplan, the development of MIND is founded on principles of circularity, in accordance with an LCA approach that takes into account the whole lifecycle of the development. Its energy efficiency extends from the scale of the individual building to that of the masterplan, favouring the use of passive energy strategies that minimise the need for active systems.

The particularities of the project are in fact its very high sustainability standards: at the district level it will receive LEED certification for Cities and Communities whilst at the level of the individual buildings, DFMA principles (Design for Manufacturing and Assembly) have been applied; this method makes it possible to control and guarantee the carbon and CO2 emissions for the whole life-cycle of the buildings. The buildings will also receive LEED BD+C and WELL certification.

All the new spaces are designed and conceived as resilient systems that will be capable of responding to changes which, in the years to come, will disrupt our current scenarios. A strategy based on risk mitigation and prevention is therefore being created by making simulations and carrying out environmental audits in line with the objectives of Lendlease and MCA, and following a future projection scenario (IPCC RCP 8.5 – 2090).

Environmental simulations of future scenarios by MCA

In view of the continuous changes and new perspectives for the development of cities, Innovation Districts need identifying characteristics, the correct balance between workspaces and housing, high-quality public spaces, services, and transport – elements that promote inclusion and relationship: physical characteristics, physical assets, that support and fuel the growth of this “innovative ecosystem”.

In developing the MIND project, particular importance is given to the synergy between some of the most common physical assets and the sustainability pillars, as a concretisation of the design decisions adopted within the space at the initial stage. In essence, these concern the implementation of public transport; shared spaces; green areas and natural infrastructure for the fight against climate change; and creating accessible spaces and the common ground, a large urban space that is the fulcrum and common denominator for the whole development.

Sustainability strategy by MCA

In line with that approach, one of the pillars and principles of this Innovation District is the natural component, which becomes an element both of connection and defence that mitigates against the effects of climate change and pollution.

Landscape Diagram by MCA

In that sense, mobility too becomes a key element. A smart and sustainable displacement system has been rethought that will enable people to reconnect to the context and will optimise flows within the new development. This strategic and structured approach to planning maximises pedestrian movement and access to all services within a short distance, minimising the use of personal vehicles.

Walkability Diagram by MCA

The network of public spaces connects the surrounding communities to the new district, ensuring real integration with the neighbouring urban development. This design approach also follows the intention to ensure the well-being and quality of life of the users, elements that result from strategies concerning not only the environmental or climate aspects, but that also relate to placemaking, i.e. implemented in an innovative, clear and tangible way in relation to the quality of the spaces created and the activities proposed.

This is where the architecture, along with the research, provides a new interpretative key to concretise this principle and develop a new model for living and designing the city

Common Ground Diagram

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