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“Obstinate” since birth: the new condominium library in the heart of Milan

The project is designed by Michele De Lucchi and promoted by Paolo Prota Giurleo, the former CEO of Autogrill

Paolo Prota Giurleo © Biblioteca Ostinata

To stimulate citizens’ passion for reading, generating opportunities for a dialogue with the city. But also to become a meeting point in the historic city centre of Milan – just a few steps away from the Statale university – a hub of relationships and a stimulus to protect the weaker segments of civil society. This is the meaning behind the manifesto of the new entry in the network of condominium libraries in Milan, a branch of the city’s library system that as of today, gathers 24 community and socialisation venues dedicated to reading. It’s called “Ostinata” (obstinate in Italian), because it was founded in Via Osti (number 6), «but also because it is the word that indicates a small but active reference point for people in the neighbourhood: from children to the elderly, from students to new citizens».

The obstinacy comes to us via Paolo Prota Giurleo, age 79, former CEO of Autogrill – today on the Board of the Jakala marketing company – and a passionate reader, who over the years has acquired over ten thousand books, and began to cultivate the desire to share a significant part of them with the community. Little more than a year ago, he found an empty space “near home” – and decided to create a new little library there, signing a “reading agreement” with the city of Milan which sanctioned its introduction into the network of city condominium libraries.

Biblioteca Ostinata, which was inaugurated on February 14th this year, «wishes to encourage the sharing of culture and the social cohesion of the neighbourhood», with activities that converge towards a single common objective – reads the declaration of intent on the website of the new structure: «to facilitate the conversation about changes in society and expand the reflection upon our contemporary age».

«We live in a zone with a popular tradition, near the historical monuments of Milan – explains Prota Giurleo –, near the Università Statale which generates an uninterrupted flow of young people, in the many bars serving drinks and aperitifs that have sprouted up in the vicinity».

Often people who have lived here for many years don’t even know one another: in this sense, the initiative intends to serve as an instrument of socialisation for the entire community.

Paolo Prota Giurleo

Events of various kinds are currently being organized (the first are scheduled in the coming days) – encounters, conversations, guided tours, laboratories, screenings, musical events and performances – open to all citizens: « For children there will be live readings and art workshops; for the elderly reading groups and meet-ups; for the new citizens, instead – we were considering Italian lessons, but to structure initiatives on this front, we are also counting on the support of the administration».

The new condominium library, which employs four part-time librarians, three women and a man, is open from Monday to Friday (10 am to 6 pm) and contains around 4 thousand books – literature, poetry, history, art, religion, philosophy, integrated with new stocks of children’s books and best-selling contemporary novels/essays – that may be freely consulted or borrowed: the books in the library, however, «will be cyclically replaced with others that have yet to be displayed and the offer will be in perennial motion». But the space is also conceived to study and read in. «Ten minutes away on foot – underscores the founder of Ostinata – is the Sormani Library, the administrative headquarters for all the libraries in Milan, large and complete, but crowded too. Ours on the contrary is a small, intimate space, quiet, relaxing, where all the books are right there at hand».

Particular attention was paid to the interiors of the slightly more than one hundred square meters (part of which are at the basement level), with the project curated by architect Michele De Lucchi – who in 2009 was responsible for the restoration of the “Manica Lunga”, the library of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini on the Island of San Giorgio in Venice – and by his son Pico. The space is characterised, remarks Prota Giurleo, «by the use of natural solid wood as a fundamental material, with bookshelves, reading tables and chairs, Though the space is limited, it conveys a sense of warmth and harmony: these are the feelings that our little library wants its visitors to perceive».

Ostinata’s mission, as described on the library’s website, is conveyed by a phrase borrowed from The Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar: « The founding of libraries was like constructing more public granaries, amassing reserves against a spiritual winter which by certain signs, in spite of myself, I see ahead».

On the cover: © Biblioteca Ostinata


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