My first encounter with Milan was not exactly love at first sight. I only came to appreciate the city’s understated charm once I began working on our bookshop.
We opened Taschen in the spring of 2015 in the Cinque Vie, a historic neighbourhood just a stone’s throw from the Duomo and Da Vinci’s The Last Supper in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. With the Expo underway, the whole city was experiencing a transformation, shedding its more reserved character in favour of an open, international outlook.
Picking up some Milanese customs made life particularly enjoyable: a cappuccino and brioche in the morning; an early evening aperitivo.
Milan is full of hidden gems. There are numerous parks and myriad archaeological sites. Recent projects such as Rem Koolhaas’ tower for the Prada Foundation intersect with other dazzling examples of modernist architecture. Our bookshop combines traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design: 1950s pieces by Gio Ponti and Flavio Poli are juxtaposed with custom Marc Newson bookshelves and a Venetian terrazzo flooring by artist Jonas Wood.
What I took with me from Milan is the proverbial ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. Milan taught me to look at urban spaces and architecture with curiosity and to develop an open mind for discovery. That can often lead to beautiful surprises.
Marlene Taschen is the managing director of art book publisher Taschen. The first Asian outlet has now opened in Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun.