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…

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10 März 2017 · NEUBAU EYEWEAR
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