Milan’s FAN – Navigli Acqua Festival

At present Landscape Interface Studio (LIS) is collaborating with Shared Assets on the project “#LimehouseCut pilot project – linking place and creativity” to investigate how ‘place matters’……. why it matters, for whom, and in what circumstances, in relation to London’s creative economy.  Can inspiration be acquired from a locality and if so how can that be expressed?  For example could London’s creative industries stimulate and encourage change in a community by engaging specific groups to help devise and carry out creative community-building neighbourhood projects?

Previously LIS collaborated with Navigli Lombardi investigating the multi-functional use of Europe’s inland waterways and how they were being used as drivers of growth through tourism, sustainable transport, climate change amelioration, etc.  The project reinforced the role of Europe’s navigable inland waterways in furthering regional economic development and Navigli Lombardi‘s Navigli Acqua Festival is an excellent example of how Milan’s canal network can be promoted through collaboration with the creative economy.

Earlier this year Milan hosted a series of arts events focused on and around their canal system, a network of five historic canals dating back to the 12th century – “FAN -Navigli Acqua Festival”.  The festival was arranged and curated by Navigli Lombardi, the company responsible for promotion of heritage and tourism initiatives for the Navigli System.

Navigli Lombardi works alongside and supports the Milan Municipal Authority in the development and execution of the recovery project for the Milan Darsena dock in view of EXPO 2015.  When work is completed (end of 2014), the city will have its old commercial dock back, with spaces devoted to a market, restaurants, bars, shops and services and a new harbour where tourists can enjoy the canals.

FAN – Navigli Acqua Festival is a series of events and initiatives on the Navigli, where the creativity and productivity of the area, fed by the water, translates into services, leisure amenities, culture, entertainment.  The project will develop over 3 years starting in April, 2013 and reaching a climax in May 2015, to coincide with the opening of the World EXPO Fair.


The 2013 edition of “FAN”, was intended to demonstrate the potential of the Navigli System and the Darsena dock as its hub, and featured a series of micro events (exhibitions, workshops, installations and artistic performances) in collaboration with a number of organisations in the arts and academia.  Floating structures were constructed which, together with courtyards and  locations along the Navigli  hosted the various events.  The aim was to create an art park, restoring vitality and stimulus to an area which is a symbol of the city, improving the quality of life of the residents as well as the level of services on offer.

FAN 2013 featured:

  • ART PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP: “Navigli Station: …from another side” – 15 selected students will undertake a voyage along the Navigli and use photography to produce unique interpretations of the water and the surrounding landscape. The experience of the  artists was used to highlight certain aspects of the landscape starting with the waterways and the surrounding places. Besides looking at the architecture and natural landscape, the area was  considered from the point of view of those who inhabit it and the consequent social context.
  • “(Un) Taming The Navigli” Workshop: Liberating the hidden potentialities of the canals’ system – In collaboration with Frederic Levrat, Columbia University, New York and Oliviero Godi, Polytechnic of Milan, Department of Architecture. 24 selected students will work for 6 days in a floating workshop specially built on the Navigli


  • THE LONG SCARF FOR THE NAVIGLIO GRANDE: A scarf will be made for the Naviglio Grande, to wrap around it and protect it, made by those who love it.  The scarf,  2 km long and has been worked on by hundreds of people, was displayed along the banks of the first section of Naviglio Grande.  Visitors contributed to the initiative by making their own piece from fabric remnants.
Fan Knitting: Photo courtesy of Claudio Repossi

Fan Knitting: Photo courtesy of Claudio Repossi

  • CRACKING ART GROUP: Frogs invasion – In collaboration with Cracking Art Group.  Thousands of frogs will invade the Navigli and the Darsena dock for the duration of the festival.
    Performances will also be organised to set the frogs floating down the Navigli.  Once the festival is over, the frogs will be put on sale and the money raised will go towards the restoration of a heritage site along the Navigli selected in collaboration with the Italian National Trust.
  • BOAT PARADE In collaboration with major Milanese and Italian street artists, – a “floating” art performance of 50 2-metre long installations made of plastic or aluminium, personalised by street artists and scattered around the Navigli area and the inner circle of the city (where the Navigli are still present, albeit invisible, being underground).
Flash mob FAN 2013 - Claudio Repossi

Flash mob FAN 2013 – Claudio Repossi

The 2015 edition of FAN (Navigli Acqua Festival) will see the installation in the Darsena dock of a cube 8x8x8m which will be used for projecting videos.  It will act as:

  • a container and communication medium for ideas and projects which highlight the creativity and uniqueness of the Navigli System and Lombardy as a whole;
  • a symbol of the Waterways and the Darsena dock;
  • a satellite of EXPO in Milan city, an amplifier of the world fair and its message. The cube expresses the concept of progress in the city and surrounding area, its evolution and transformation over the years, an evolution that is inextricably linked to the Navigli waterways.



One comment

  1. Pingback: As the Darsena reopens for EXPO, Milan rediscovers its waterways | Landscape Interface Studio

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