Milan’s two reverently worshipped titans of football, Associazione Calcio Milan (AC Milan) and FC Internazionale Milano (Inter), have unveiled a new 60,000-seat shared home that will replace the iconic San Siro Stadium. Appropriately dubbed the Cathedral, the Populous-designed stadium, a rectangular structure wholly encased by vertical fins that support an “elegant glass facade,” described by the two rival clubs in a joint statement as a “celebration of the artistic and cultural heritage of Milano.” The soaring, glassy design of the stadium was influenced in part by the Duomo di Milano, which towers over the city’s main piazza as the largest church in Italy and the third-largest in the world. Another Milanese architectural landmark situated at Piazza del Duomo, the iconic 19th-century shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, was also cited as an inspiration for the new facility.
The Cathedral will anchor a larger planned sports and leisure district within the San Siro neighborhood in northwest Milan that will feature roughly 22 acres of open green space, 40 percent of the total redevelopment zone. Envisioned as “an extra-contemporary green area that can be lived all year round” by Inter CEO Alessandro Antonello, the new district will be entirely car-free and an existing surface parking lot that takes up roughly 27 percent of the existing site will be moved underground. Per a press release, most of the activities offered within the sprawling new sports and leisure hub will be gratis and/or affiliated with the City of Milan.
A finalized master plan will be unveiled by the project team later next year.
“The Cathedral will become one of the most iconic stadiums in world football,” said Christopher Lee, managing director of Populous for EMEA. “It will create a world-class, modern, and truly bespoke home for the legendary clubs of AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano and form the beating heart of a new civic district. It will be a stadium for all Milanese to enjoy for generations to come that is true to the city and honours its heritage. A stadium of Milano and for Milano.”
Beating out a stadium proposal from Manica-Cmr Sportium that was also under consideration by the two clubs, the Milan office of Populous will lead the project with support from the firm’s London-based EMEA team. Like the Populous-helmed transformation of Seattle’s old KeyArena into the Climate Pledge Arena that debuted in October, the Cathedral will be a sustainable stadium aiming for carbon neutrality and LEED certification. This will be achieved through “the use of the most innovative materials and cutting-edge technologies in terms of water and electricity usage, as well as noise control,” according to the clubs. The official project website goes on to further detail a range of planned sustainability elements including a rainwater catchment system, rooftop solar photovoltaic panels and accompanying battery storage system, passive heating, and more.
To considerable controversy, the existing parking lot isn’t the only thing at the San Siro development site that’s disappearing.
The legendary San Siro Stadium, formally known as Stadio Giuseppe Meazza since 1980, will be partially demolished to make way for the Cathedral and the parkland-heavy new district that will flank it. Last year, Italy’s heritage authority gave the demolition plans its full blessing after deeming that San Siro Stadium holds no “cultural interest.” Completed in 1926 and subject to a series of major facelifts over the decades, the fabled 80,000-seat capacity stadium is among the largest in Europe and by far the largest in Italy. Legal action aiming to halt the demolition of San Siro Stadium is already reportedly underway and a number of high-profile opponents have spoken out against the demolition plans including former AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi, who has also been generating headlines as of late for other reasons.
Whatever the case, demolition work won’t proceed until after the opening ceremony for the Milan 2026 Winter Olympics is held at San Siro Stadium as planned. “[…] no matter the timing of when the new stadium will be built, the opening ceremony for the 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in the current stadium, as a tribute to its glorious history,” clarified Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala in October.
While a firm construction timeline for the Cathedral has yet to be established, the project is anticipated to reach completion in 2017 with an estimated cost of over $567 million.