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MEET, the new Digital Culture Center by Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota



With the digital explosion we have witnessed in recent months, extraordinary accelerators of processes probably already underway, how can physical spaces reconfigure to become new vectors of serendipity and connections between people?

A possible answer is the new MEET Digitale Culture Center of Milan, designed by CRA – Carlo Ratti Associati in collaboration with Italo Rota and located in the central Milanese neighbourhood of Porta Venezia, into a historic palazzo, which has been fully renovated in the last two years with the support of Fondazione Cariplo.

At its core, there is a wide vertical public space – including a 15-meter-high habitable stairwell – which can seamlessly turn from theater to workspace to meeting area, and serves as the focal point for all the center’s daily activities and events.

With the MEET project, CRA aims to investigate the meaning of physical space in an increasingly digitized world: it argues that architecture should foster unexpected encounters between people, precisely those that are missing in the digital realm.

The design of MEET strives to achieve this aim through the hybridization of functions – that is, the possibility for any space to simultaneously host different activities.

The vertical plaza at the core of the building embodies the project’s vision: all around a brightly-colored stairwell that moves in a zigzagging fashion, people can stop onto a series of asymmetric landings, enriched by a system of multimedia projections; these spaces can be used for talks, installations, art performances.

The MEET venue embeds digital technologies into physical space with an array of advanced projection systems and screens scattered across the building: this allows people to access MEET’s digital archive in unexpected ways; drawing on the idea of “ubiquitous computing” put forward by scientist Mark Weiser, who argued that digital technology would become so pervasive that it will “recede into the background of our lives”, the project transforms architecture itself into a medium to share knowledge and culture.

Finally, the MEET venue as renovated by CRA and Italo Rota extend over 1,500 square meters (16,000 square feet) across three levels: among other functions, it accommodates a reconfigurable auditorium and movie theater operated in collaboration with the longstanding Cineteca Italiana, a café, and an immersive hall for digital installations.

Italo Rota and Carlo Ratti thus give concrete form to a totally new concept of space, indicating a possible direction for the architecture of the future.