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Magnolia: changing the face of Milan

Beyond the most fashionable streets and design quarters, outside the new city centres frequented by artists and creative types, there’s a side of Milan which is growing and enhancing its suburbs.

Once-for­got­ten places are increas­ing­ly becom­ing incu­ba­tors of cre­ative, inter­est­ing com­pa­nies and Cir­co­lo Mag­no­lia is the per­fect exam­ple of this process. Found out­side the city lim­its, it’s locat­ed with­in the Idrosca­lo Park near a large reflec­tive body of water which was orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed as a sea­plane run­way and now acts as a sport­ing hub and one of Milan’s green spaces.

Mag­no­lia resides next to an amuse­ment park, giv­ing off UK vibes of Brighton Pier. It’s open all year round and each sea­son brings a ren­o­va­tion of its spaces with new stages and envi­ron­men­tal­ly sus­tain­able upgrades. Between an ample var­ied music pro­gramme and all-encom­pass­ing ini­tia­tives that span from cin­e­ma to art to edu­ca­tion, it’s one of the top places to be if you hap­pen to find your­self in Milan.

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We sat down for a chat with Nicholas and Ste­fano, Pres­i­dent and Vice-Pres­i­dent of the Mag­no­lia Asso­ci­a­tion respec­tive­ly, and among the 30 stars of the Faces of neubau” pho­tog­ra­phy project.

Mag­no­lia lies out­side the clas­sic hubs of Milanese nightlife yet man­ages to be, with its event pro­gramme and qual­i­ty music, one of the most inter­na­tion­al clubs of Milan. In your opin­ion, what are the fac­tors that con­tributed to its suc­cess?
Con­sis­ten­cy first and fore­most. We didn’t set up our project based on prof­it, but rather shaped it round an artis­tic idea. Our sta­tus as an asso­ci­a­tion helps us: each year we are oblig­ed to rein­vest our earn­ings with­in the venue. This means con­tin­u­ous­ly upgrad­ing the struc­tures, equip­ment which is always on the cut­ting edge, new attrac­tions and oppor­tu­ni­ties for our users and the artists who come to play at Mag­no­lia. We also can afford to sched­ule evenings with musi­cians who might not be the biggest names but who allow us to broad­en the range of what we offer. In that way we reach dif­fer­ent nich­es and strength­en per­son­al rela­tion­ships with artists who in the future might blow up and come back to us when they’re at the top, even if our venue doesn’t quite have the capac­i­ty of a sta­di­um. This year we built a new main stage for out­door sum­mer events, we expand­ed our culi­nary options and we’re focus­ing on invest­ing even fur­ther in the qual­i­ty of our beverages.

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Many cities in Europe and beyond are build­ing their artis­tic and cul­tur­al cen­tres through a reval­u­a­tion of sub­urbs and old indus­tri­al areas. Milan is no excep­tion and Mag­no­lia is be an exam­ple of this. What are the neigh­bour­hoods and the cities that most inspired you for the cre­ation and evo­lu­tion of the venue?
More than cities or quar­ters, we draw inspi­ra­tion from large Euro­pean music fes­ti­vals, which if you look care­ful­ly all take place in small towns, not in large urban cen­tres. So, we want to cre­ate this atmos­phere of a vil­lage, with music, relax­ation, good food, artist instal­la­tions, sport and enter­tain­ment. This is the direc­tion we’re tak­ing with our events, which aren’t lim­it­ed to musi­cal per­for­mances or to a tem­po­rary place for nightlife.

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The music pro­gramme at Mag­no­lia is very dense and diverse, both in sum­mer and win­ter. What per­for­mances in recent years are you most proud of?
It would be easy to respond with well-known names. We’ve host­ed the Edi­tors, Flume and Cari­bou just to name a few of the most recent ones. But real­ly what we’re most proud of is the rela­tion­ships we’ve been able to estab­lish with artists that, over time, even when they get big­ger and have more fol­low­ers, have cho­sen to return to Mag­no­lia to per­form over more prof­itable venues with greater capac­i­ty. Dub FX, 2ManyDJs or Fritz Kalk­bren­ner for exam­ple. Like we said before, we have focused quite a bit on the qual­i­ty of the struc­tures, the equip­ment and the atmos­phere. When a musi­cian comes to us, he or she knows that there won’t be any tech­ni­cal prob­lems and that things will go smooth­ly. This is also reflect­ed on the audi­ence, for the qual­i­ty of the per­for­mance and sound.

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Solar pan­els, atten­tive recy­cling and a for­est in the city. More than a venue, Mag­no­lia seems like a true urban oasis. Is the atten­tion to the envi­ron­ment a need more than a choice for you? How do young peo­ple react to the choic­es you’ve made in favour of sus­tain­abil­i­ty?
The fact that we must con­tin­u­ous­ly rein­vest our prof­its as an asso­ci­a­tion allows us to direct resources where we feel it’s best for growth and improve­ment. With­out a doubt, hav­ing zero impact on the envi­ron­ment is one of our goals and the large invest­ment which we made in recent years for the instal­la­tion of solar pan­els and the sys­tem for heat exchange with the water in Idrosca­lo Lake is proof of that. Prob­a­bly in the day-to-day it’s hard to notice any appre­ci­a­tion from our cus­tomers in terms of these types of choic­es. But when we start­ed a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign to sup­port the pur­chase of the pan­els, we raised an amount that absolute­ly exceed­ed our expec­ta­tions, with indi­vid­ual dona­tions of hun­dreds of euros, even from artists who had nev­er played at Mag­no­lia. This made us tru­ly under­stand how much the con­sis­ten­cy and the effort which we men­tioned before are the indis­pens­able keys to unlock people’s hearts and minds.

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From show­cas­ing films in the sum­mer to host­ing local feasts and foot races, Mag­no­lia doesn’t just come alive with music. What are your upcom­ing objec­tives and hori­zons to be explored?
2 years ago, we set down a path to diver­si­fy the events we offer, pre­cise­ly to embrace, more and more, that Euro­pean fes­ti­val mod­el which inspired us. The open-air cin­e­ma was a suc­cess­ful project (despite our prox­im­i­ty to the Linate air­port). We organ­ised a music fes­ti­val for chil­dren, with musi­cians, teach­ers and instru­ments avail­able, and that event’s great suc­cess sur­prised us and was quite grat­i­fy­ing. Anoth­er fan­tas­tic ini­tia­tive which was suc­cess­ful beyond our expec­ta­tions was the Game Boy music course which we host­ed this year, it was tru­ly won­der­ful. For the future, we’re work­ing to bring a con­cert to the park star­ring a famous young pianist. We’d like to do it at dawn, draw­ing a bit of inspi­ra­tion from the Sounds of the Dolomites. We want to push our­selves even fur­ther beyond the every­day’ food and bev­er­age menu, rais­ing its qual­i­ty and always increas­ing the choice of what we offer. We’re in Italy – food is cul­ture and we like it.

Let’s play a game. Exclud­ing Milan, which has been a buzz for a while and grow­ing to become a cap­i­tal of cre­ativ­i­ty, in what city would you open a new Cir­co­lo Mag­no­lia?
[Nicholas]: Sure­ly it would have to be a small uni­ver­si­ty town, as young peo­ple and uni­ver­si­ties are the essen­tial motor of move­ment. If I had to choose, I’d say Grana­da, which I rather like and which is the right size. South­ern Europe is well suit­ed, but even the extreme north, where they invest a lot in cul­ture.
[Ste­fano]: I agree with Nicholas, but I’d add Tel Aviv. It’s rich with oppor­tu­ni­ty, always on the go and has cap­ti­vat­ing landscapes.

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What is the next can’t-miss’ event at Mag­no­lia? What is one event not at Mag­no­lia that you want to attend?
15 Feb­ru­ary, Sohn at Mag­no­lia. He’s one of the great­est manip­u­la­tors of tem­po around, able to rec­on­cile the most diverse forms of music into some­thing new and unique. As spec­ta­tors, on the oth­er hand, nei­ther of us has ever been to Pri­mav­era Sound and we’d real­ly like to go – it could be a great inspi­ra­tion to us.

Is there a ride you’d steal from the Idrosca­lo amuse­ment park?
With­out a doubt: the Fer­ris wheel! But don’t tell the ride attendants…

Blog 1702 Nd46651
10 Mar 2017 · neubau eyewear