The area that gravitates around Via Macchiavelli, the street experienced and inhabited by Vincenzo Agnetti throughout his life, owes its design and its ongoing status as an upper middle class neighborhood to one of the most important episodes of the history of the city of Milan: the implementation of the first master plan, formulated by the municipal engineer Cesare Beruto in its definitive version dated 1889. A project that brought Milan to the threshold of modernity and gradually enhanced the urban fabric with excellent features that are fundamental for an understanding of the city as we know it today: the construction of Corso Sempione and the park of the same name (1890-1906), but also the construction of the first pavilions of the Fiera Campionaria, opened in the 1920s and later demolished to make room for the district now known as “CityLife.”

Milan, however, is not Paris, nor is it Vienna: the gracious design of the new blocks envisioned in the Beruto Plan was accompanied by the need for sweeping renewal of the railroad infrastructures that spread across the city, which by then was populated by industrial plants. Already in 1912, then, a new master plan was approved, prepared by the engineers Angelo Pavia and Giovanni Masera. For the area of Via Macchiavelli the implementation led to the creation of a railway line extending from the switching yard of Milano-Porta Sempione (built starting in 1883 along the Milan-Mortara line, between the Centrale and Porta Genova stations) towards today’s Milano Cadorna station. In spite of the demolition in the 1930s of the rail yard itself, the forceful separation caused by the recessed tracks below ground level remained, imposing a clear barrier between Via Macchiavelli and the elegant district that was taking form around Via Canova. Two zones that could be gazed across together by the naked eye, but deeply separated by this wound inflicted on the urban tissue, setting the tone of the situation in which Agnetti lived: from the windows of his studio, across the railroad, he could enjoy the view of some of the most interesting buildings from the standpoint of the debate in the 1950s on the synesthesia of the arts, where art and architecture sought a dialogue and a bond: the apartment buildings at Via Canova 7/a (1958-1960), in which the architect Giandomenico Belotti and his team seamlessly inserted plastic molds created by Arnaldo and Gio Pomodoro inside the pours of reinforced concrete; and the building at Via Canova 15 (1951-1953), in which Bianchi, Magni and Paccagnini involved the painter Roberto Crippa, who made a decorative mosaic conceived as a feature of the urban landscape projected onto the facade.

Along the axis of Corso Sempione, then, there stood or there would soon stand some of the works of architecture that make the area a true laboratory of Milanese modernity: the house of Gio Ponti on Via Randaccio (1924-1926), which Agnetti undoubtedly visited due to his friendship with the editor of Domus; Casa Rustici by Terragni (1933-1936), an acclaimed model of Milanese Rationalism; the RAI production center (1939), again designed by Ponti, at 27 Corso Sempione; all the way to the INA tower by Piero Bottoni (1953-1958), conceived as one of the most convincing alternative prototypes to the settlement logic of the courtyard block.

Among the most representative works in the zone during the period in which Agnetti lived there, together with those already indicated for the Sempione area:

House on Via Randaccio (1924-1926)
Via Randaccio, 9
Project: Gio Ponti, Emilio Lancia

Casa Rustici (1933-1936)
Corso Sempione, 36
Project: Giuseppe Terragni, Pietro Lingeri

RAI production center (1939)
Corso Sempione, 27
Project: Gio Ponti, Nino Bertolaia

Apartment building at Via Canova 15 (1951-1953)
Via Canova, 15
Project: Camillo Magni, Ernesto B. Bianchi, Carlo Paccagnini

Apartment building at Via Canova 7/a (1958-1960)
Via Canova, 7/a
Project: Giandomenico Belotti, Achille Boraschi, Sergio Invernizzi, Vittorio Korach

INA tower (1958-1963)
Corso Sempione, 36
Project: Piero Bottoni