Allina & Matteo  Corbellini

Allina & Matteo Corbellini


Villa Clea: A Rebirth of Culture in Milan’s Scalo Porta Romana Area.

Villa Clea is a private home that opens up to bring people together and provide a home for a community centered around contemporary art.

While strolling through Milan’s Scalo Porta Romana area, I made a mental note to visit a cultural space that had been the talk of the town. This space was none other than “Villa Clea”, curated by Allina - artist and designer - and Matteo Corbellini - architect - who recently returned to Milan after various experiences abroad.

Villa Clea stands out as an innovative cultural space and is a significant part of the Scalo Porta Romana redevelopment project, serving as a small yet distinctive symbol of the neighbourhood’s rejuvenation. With initial support from the City of Milan and Fondazione Cariplo, it serves as a unique blend of residence, studio, and exhibition space, organising events in collaboration with contemporary cultural institutions as well.

Spring Studios Villa Clea
Spring Studios Villa Clea

“Villa Clea” stands in place of a former abandoned car workshop, adjacent to Fondazione Prada and ICA. The monolithic structure serves as a symbol of rebirth amidst the surrounding Milanese buildings. What inspired the concept behind this project?

Matteo was looking for a suitable place to build a mono-material architecture and found the remains of an old, unused body shop. The courage to see it as an opportunity was driven by the desire to experiment with contemporary architecture and a new way of living, fluid and anti-programmatic, open to different uses and a point of reference for a new community. Allina followed the flow of these thoughts by designing the LUNAA furniture, which together allow the space to be modulated differently and to be welcoming to heterogeneous uses each time.

What transformations has the garden undergone, and how do they symbolise renewal and rebirth within the overall environment of ‘Villa Clea’?

The garden was born from the space where the former workshop oven stood. Allina wanted it to be very wild and selected resistant and spontaneous plants. We take care of it with the help of Stefano Perlini, a friend of ours who loves gardening, an expert in vegetable gardens and animals, and occasionally, we collaborate with friends who specialise in plant arrangements, as was the case with Marco from Bloomservice for the last events. Matteo designed the roof of Villa Clea so that it could accommodate a few centimetres of soil, and together with the biologist Paolo Pelizzari, Allina’s brother, they sowed it with spontaneous wildflowers. With these two gestures, a radical change was made to the landscape observed by thousands of people from the windows of the urban buildings around Villa Clea, and together with some neighbours, we chose to make the roof of the building in front, which houses the workshop and some car garages, green as well. A sign that a private home can not only contribute to urban improvement but also inspire positive practices.

Spring Studios Allina & Matteo Corbellini

What inspired the name of the space, and how does it embody the concept of rebirth as a contemporary living system?

Allina came up with Villa as an urban concept of sharing. Matteo invented Clea, which originates from the same root as ‘clay’ in English, from which the entire monomaterial volume is made, but also from ‘gluten’ or ‘glue’ meaning union. Villa Clea is a private home that opens up to bring people together and provide a home for a community centred around contemporary art.

What sets “Villa Clea” apart as a place to stay compared to traditional accommodations?

Villa Clea is a manifesto of Matteo Corbellini’s ‘antiprogrammatic’ architecture concept. He emphasises creating spaces, not rooms. In our home where we also live privately, we don’t have a precise idea of spaces with their own definition. This allows for extreme flexibility in uses and a breaking of traditional patterns of the concept of living, working, exhibiting, and sharing. Some find it uncomfortable, but we love deciding each time where to sleep, where to sit at the computer, where to project a movie, where to host artists, how to set up the exhibition, or a lunch among friends.

How do the furnishings of the space enhance its programmatic fluidity?

Allina’s entire furniture setting, with futon beds, modular and easily movable sofas, and the LUNAA collection, allows for a fluidity that adapts to Matteo’s extreme architectural versatility. He designed all the spaces with the presence of a bathroom and kitchen, which can be connected in a sequence or separated through independent accesses.

Spring Studios Allina & Matteo Corbellini LUNA Collection

LUNAA collection

Spring Studios Allina & Matteo Corbellini LUNA Collection

LUNAA collection

What inspired the design of LUNAA, the aluminium furniture collection specifically tailored for ‘Villa Clea’?

Matteo conceived a monomaterial architecture through the use of a carefully studied mix, experimented with, and created by him, consisting of clay and cement, which allows for the exclusion of any plastic material for thermal insulation or finishing layers. It is an essential but raw volume that expresses a lot of material sensibility. Allina chose to furnish all the spaces with a single material that complements the materiality of the spaces, namely aluminium chosen for door and window fixtures. Thus, raw aluminium became the only material for all the furnishings. Wanting to accommodate both private life and contemporary art exhibitions, the design focused on prototype forms that could embrace various artistic forms and everyday life. The result is a serene and powerful presence of essential, shiny, and highly material elements.

In what ways does the project bolster artists through its residency program, and how do you go about selecting artists to participate in the residency?

The first artists were personally invited by Allina, who had recently interviewed them for her doctoral research on intuition in creative fields. Later, a call for applications was opened, which attracted many artists and helped organise the program for the first months. In the future, we naturally envision a mix of these two approaches, so that Villa Clea positions itself as a professional but non-institutional reality, where face-to-face human interaction, which is the atmosphere and the main objective, is enhanced by broader discovery through digital communication.

While many exhibition spaces still rely on passive engagement strategies, my visit to “Villa Clea” provided a refreshing departure from this norm. Upon arrival, I was greeted warmly, as if I were entering the home of a friend. This approach fosters a new dialogue and signals a renaissance in museum communication. How do you anticipate this approach evolving in the future?

Villa Clea is primarily the place where we live, where we work, and where we meet the people we care about. The decision to open it up frequently to a broader community stems from the desire to offer a contemporary but above all informal space for sharing, where direct human interaction is the essential backdrop. The meticulous attention to digital communication and the aesthetic and sensory experience of meetings at Villa Clea are part of this singular goal of coming together, getting to know each other, and sharing an experience together.

The desire to offer a contemporary but above all informal space for sharing, where direct human interaction is the essential backdrop.

Spring Studio Villa Clea

What upcoming art project do you plan to host next?

We have a more or less monthly programme of invited artists staying with us for short residencies, where the purpose will not be production but rather exhibition, observation, and interaction. In parallel, we assess collaborations with other entities every day with the aim of supporting and enriching contemporary culture within the spaces of Villa Clea.

As we wrap up our discussion, I’d like to turn our focus to the future of Milan and specifically to the future of the neighborhood where “Villa Clea” is located. Given that spaces are constantly evolving to accommodate human needs, how do you foresee the future evolution of space in this area? Have you given any thought to potential developments in this regard?

We’ve gradually integrated into the urban fabric. During the construction, we lived in an apartment overlooking Villa Clea, and while Matteo directed and worked hands-on in the construction, Allina chatted with the neighbours. The first real opening was a neighbourhood tea party with cakes cooked together. We’d like the moments when our private home opens up for exhibitions and events to be pretexts for sharing with a community, whether local or extended. In addition to Fondazione Prada and Fondazione Ica, other entities related to contemporary art are settling in the neighbourhood, including some artists who are moving their studios here. Our hope is that the administrations support these transformations in a way that respects the people and realities already in place.