Just like many of you, we're already curious to know more about the next Winter Olympics, Milano Cortina 2026, an event actually extending throughout the northwest of Italy. It will involve Livigno and Bormio in the Valtellina area, for snowboarding and men's alpine skiing, while the Trentino Alto Adige region will host speed skating, ski jumping and cross-country skiing in Baselga di Piné and the Fiemme valley, and the biathlon in Anterselva. Nonetheless, the star venues will be Milan, Cortina and Verona. More specifically, on 6 February, the day the Olympics begin, the San Siro Stadium in Milan will see to getting the games underway, while the closing goodbyes will come from the Verona Arena, on 22 February.
According to the preliminary studies on the costs, carried out by Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Bocconi University of Milan and the Sapienza of Rome, these Winter Olympics will not have an exorbitant price tag and will not weigh on the national budget. In fact, existing venues will mainly be used, including the already mentioned San Siro Stadium and the Verona Arena. Their settings will be specially developed for the occasion ‒ and will be completely unrecognisable, so the designers say! Instead, new builds will number very few. These will be the Olympic villages (in the case of Milan, the edifices will then be converted into student halls) and PalaItalia ‒ better known as Arena Santa Giulia ‒ by David Chipperfield Architects, which will house the men's ice hockey competitions.
Let's take a look at the main Milano Cortina Winter Olympics info and the details that deserve closer attention. The first involves the new design for the Arena Santa Giulia (one of the upgrade projects encompassing the whole Santa Giulia neighbourhood, the first Italian district to receive LEED for Neighborhood Development certification and, according to many, set to become Milan's new nerve centre). The second pivots on the topic of sustainability paired with large-scale events. While the third is the video by Mark Balich, which guaranteed Italy's victory over the other candidates.
After the 2026 Winter Olympics, large-scale concerts, sports events and international festivals will ensure continuity of use at the new Olympic arena that is getting ready to take shape in the Santa Giulia district of Milan. With its design entrusted to David Chipperfield Architects, in conjunction with ARUP, it lays the foundations to a broad multi-purpose complex able to accommodate up to 16,000 people. It will look out onto a square of over 10,000 m2 (on the northern section of its site) and will be the heart, among other things, of an ambitious masterplan developed by Foster + Partner to regenerate and upgrade the area around the Rogoredo metro stop.
Why is it that ‒ setting the Olympics aside ‒ everything in Milan seems to gravitate around the new Santa Giulia neighbourhood, in the city's eastern outskirts? One good reason is that it is the first Italian district to be awarded LEED for Neighborhood Development certification (thanks also to the new Spark Food District), which recognises the value of designs that foster an integrated approach to quality of living, public health and respect for the environment, promoting best practices oriented to analysis of the local area, choices made to encourage environmental conservation, and excellent connections with public transport. >>> Read more on the Santa Giulia neighbourhood and the new Spark Food District ‒ a blend of food-service, cultural and sports spaces
The new Sky headquarters opened right here in Santa Giulia in 2011, six years after the works managed by Gruppo Risanamento were completed. The same group is now orchestrating the new lease of life for the area, including the arena (which will host the Paralympics opening ceremony and the ice hockey competitions), the shopping and business area, and the American-style university campus of the Giuseppe Verdi music academy ‒ a one-of-a kind in Italy and the only 'open' one, in that it incorporates a park and a complex serving public needs.
Returning to the new Arena Santa Giulia, this edifice will stand in large concentric rings built up as an oval, inspired by the typical amphitheatre, reworked with modern techniques and materials. Twisted slightly off the north-south axis, the building will welcome guests arriving from the west, tracing out a constant spiral reaching up towards the sky, with its heights seeming to hover one on top of the next. A platform made of mineral materials will in fact rise up from the base in three belts of different heights: their metallic identity is underscored by aluminium pipes that gleam during the day and LED strip lights, fed by multimedia contents, that brighten the night.
Instead, the spaces between the rings are connected by light transparent glass bands, protruding individually and towards the square, endowing the building with a peculiar yet dynamic volume. Inside, besides the viewing areas, there will also be lobbies, restaurants, cafes, bars and small lounge spaces.
The rigorous forms of the arena will be counterbalanced by the generous green spaces harmoniously designed by the team at Studio Laura Gatti, with trees fully lining the staircase, reminiscent of a verdant rolling landscape.
Arena Santa Giulia by David Chipperfield is the sole example among the 14 venues for the Milano Cortina Winter Olympics to be built outright, with private funding, explained Antonio Rossi, the Lombardy Regional Council undersecretary responsible for sports, the 2026 Olympics and large-scale events. And its construction is essential for the Winter Games, since it will host the men's ice hockey matches. We hope that the works will proceed to schedule. Of course, these are facilities needed by Milan and I have no doubt that this idea will be successful. We're not talking about erecting a cathedral in a desert.
The developers have given their assurance that the works will get underway before the end of the year.
Besides measures to keep resource consumption and CO2 emissions to a minimum, the concept of sustainability will also include a series of photovoltaic systems installed on site and on the roof of the new Arena Santa Giulia: the energy generated will amply cover the needs of the neighbourhood, which will be highly energy-efficient.
The 2026 Winter Games will in fact place a very careful focus on the environment. The target is to fully recycle (100%!) of the resulting urban refuse, plus 80% of the packaging. There will be very strict regulations on materials for disposable items (plates, cutlery and cups) and even on maintenance for the ice ‒ a special low-ammonia formula has been devised. The energy needed to power the artificial snow systems will come from solar panels.
One of the curious aspects influencing the IOC's decision on location for the 2026 Olympics is connected to the approach taken by the Italian authorities to secure this event for Italy. Alongside the bureaucratic measures by the President of the Italian National Olympic Committee, Giovanni Malagò, and the message from the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, the Italian victory was sealed, according to the voters, by the presentation video created through Marco Balich's talent.
Marco Balich is well-known in the sector as a visionary, and has already been art director for some world-calibre shows connected with the opening ceremonies for previous editions of the Olympics. He is also the creator and promoter of other performances with a high technological impact, such as Giudizio Universale ('the last judgement') in Rome at the Auditorium Conciliazione.
The video brings together many artfully mixed ingredients to tell the story of Italy, its love of sport and the magnetic attraction of its locations, in poetic tones with a proud edge.
>>> There's time until 31 May to sign up for THE PLAN Award 2022. This annual international prize recognises excellence in architecture, interior design and urban planning, and has 20 theme-based categories, including Sport & Leisure, which focuses on sports grounds and facilities, play parks and leisure spaces.
Project by David Chipperfield Architects, ARUP
Rendering by Onirism Studio / ARUP, courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects