The Beruto Plan

The master plan by Cesare Beruto (1835-1915), formulated in its first version in 1884 but not definitively approved and implemented until 1889, is still one of the chapters of the urban history of Milan that has most profoundly influenced its evolution.

Beruto, chief engineer of the municipal government’s technical division, was assigned the task of preparing the city’s first master plan in a context of strong pressures and many disputes that arose between the city and a growing number of real estate investors and speculators interested in developing the areas of the historic Piazza d’Armi and the Sforza Castle. This opportunity was approached as a vast project that from the start attempted to solve the problem of the area around the Castle in a much wider perspective: in response to the growing demand for housing capable of absorbing new inhabitants, the progressive transformation – already in progress – of the outlying areas into industrial zones, and the constant need to make breaches in the ring of the Spanish fortifications (the so-called “bastions”) that constituted a true barrier between the historical center and the surrounding territory, Beruto proposed a series of interventions based on international models. The first action deemed useful was the demolition of the fortified walls, replaced with a large tree-lined boulevard joined by another outer ring to mark the circumference of maximum growth envisioned for the city. Between these two concentric ring roads, designed starting with careful analysis of the plan of Vienna that had led to the construction of the Ringstraße, very large blocks were inserted (at times by reworking the expansion plan for Berlin) to ensure the possibility of aligning the facades of the buildings along the streetfront and of creating large courtyards and gardens inside each block. In the resulting expansion belt paced by a regular grid of streets and squares, the main axes of penetration converging on the historical center were extended and projected towards the surrounding territory. For the historical center, on the other hand, Beruto called for a series of interventions that closely resemble the notorious “gutting” proposed by Baron Haussmann for Paris: strategic demolitions aimed at rationalizing the circulation network, leading to the destruction of many neighborhoods. Fortunately this approach was applied to a much lesser degree than in the French model, and the demolitions (for example, the one permitting the creation of today’s Via Dante) also contributed to generate physical ties between the historical center and the growth sectors, with the sole exception of the area around the Castle, which had been the focus of the initiation of the plan: overcoming exceptional resistance on the part of the real estate companies, the administration approved a solution that called for the construction of a modern public park designed by Cesare Alemagna and now known as Parco Sempione.