Ideas of Ambiente

History and Bourgeois Ethics in the Construction of Modern Milan, 1881–1969

Milan’s bourgeois society forged the city’s building culture between the 1880s and 1960s with a sense of history as well as of responsibility and common welfare



Angelo Raffaele Lunati. With an introduction by Adam Caruso

1st edition

, 2020

Text in English


312 pages, 41 color and 91 b/w illustrations

16.5 x 21.5 cm

ISBN 978-3-03860-153-1


When we hear of Milan, we think of fashion, soccer, or Leonardo da Vinci. Yet Milan is a leading global city economically as well, regarded as one of the “Four Motors in Europe.” How did Milan become a city of such importance both economically and artistically? Its remarkable position is the result of the constant modernization Milan undertook throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The city’s upper classes were the main drivers of this development, which made Milan a true metropolis—one that reflected their common interests, rooted in keen entrepreneurship, a sense of history, and their origins.

In Ideas of Ambiente, Angelo Lunati investigates the relationship among the Milanese upper class, its specific urban culture, and architecture. Lunati realizes his homage to a metropolitan bourgeoisie through the comprehensive concept of “ambiente,” reaching beyond the mere built environment to comprise much wider cultural and social aspects as well. Ideas of Ambiente invites us to appreciate Milan’s architectural trajectory, from its initial romanticism via bold modernism to the elegant yet politically charged aesthetic of the post-WWII period. Lunati demonstrates how the “ambiente” works as a binding agent to which certain neighborhoods owe their environmental unity and how it makes a consistently modern architecture just the latest expression of a historical continuity.


Angelo Lunati is an architect and founder of the Milan-based architecture firm Onsitestudio and a professor of architecture at Politecnico di Milano.

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Sforza Castle under restoration, 1903 © ACM

Contemporary view of Piazza © Largo Donegani

Contemporary view of Casa Rasini © Daniele Marzorati

P. Portaluppi, Filatura Cascami Seta building, 1924, facade detail © ACM and contemporary close-up view

Postcard view of war-ravaged © Bottonuto

Urban block in Via Albricci, contemporary view from building opposite © Daniele Marzorati

Cartiere Binda block, contemporary view towards San Nazaro © Daniele Marzorati


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