As you know, I love traveling around Milan and I love doing it with my nose on the constant search for novelties and changes, in the great scenarios and small things, like a neighborhood bookshop.
Walking through NoLo (this is what the area of Milan is called between Viale Padova and Viale Monza) I came across NOI – Cultural Neighborhood Space (in via delle Leghe 18) which, as the name implies, aims to be a reference point for the area and beyond. Curiosity drove me to enter and learn about 2 of the 4 souls that give life to US, both young and mothers, Alice and Anna. Together with Marco and Andrea (Alice’s companion and little Noah’s father) they decided to create this gathering point in the not easy sector of culture and publishing.
I talked to Alice about her, about her being a mother and about US.
1- Hi Alice and congratulations for this beautiful place. Tell me a little about yourself and your project.
Hi, I’m a journalist and for years I’ve been working in magazines related to the world of design and architecture.
I felt the need to open a place of my own, a dimension in which to convey my interests, from the popular soul – rooted in the neighborhood where I live – but at the same time that could aspire to become a small place known also abroad. A little by coincidence and a little by will these needs came together with those of Andrea, my partner in life, Marco, my great friend and Anna, also a mother and also a great connoisseur of design and architecture .
We looked at each other and decided to create US.
2– How come the illustration …
For me the illustration has always been more a passion than anything else, even if for years I take care of the last page of Abitare that promotes the work of Italian and foreign illustrators. I also published with 24 hours Culture an illustrated story about a people encountered in 2014, later translated into English, French, German. Our manifesto, which can be read on our website, concludes with the phrase “NOI is a highly reasoned hazard”. And so it is, born of an intuition. And from a dose of courage and unconsciousness.
3. Which audience is it aimed at? What readers do you want … to attract?
NOI is an independent bookshop specializing in illustration. The illustration, as a universal language, allows us to touch various areas, even very different ones. We therefore expect a heterogeneous audience: from the comic book enthusiast, to the mother who wants to make a gift for her son’s friend, from travelers who seek suggestions before a trip (beyond the canonical guides), to the ordinary, accustomed reader to read fiction, which instead can discover how a graphic novel can excite and surprise like a novel. But then WE also wants to be a community: not by chance we called it a neighborhood cultural space. We would like to become a point of reference for the neighborhood: NOI users should not necessarily be buyers of our securities.
If NOI is also populated by people who want to have a chat in the garden, by the little girl who comes here to draw after school, by the freelancer who has just had a child and is looking for some peace to send two emails… .all situations that they are occurring as I speak … I am happy. And then the most prolific ideas and collaborations often come from spontaneous meetings …
4. Why did you decide to do it there? what signals and messages do you want to send?
NoLo is a growing neighborhood and here you can really breathe a beautiful air beyond the marketing found, there are many activities and excitement.
Let me give an example: today I read on the social street that a lady had received a grand piano which she had to hoist up on the fourth floor. Neighbors and passersby were mobilized and a human chain brought “the boulder” to its destination. The lord of the piano, who came from a place in the province of Reggio Emilia, said that it was time he did not see a “solidarity from a country of the past” like that.
Here I believe that here there is the right humus to graft an activity like that of an independent bookstore and neighborhood cultural center. There is a community of solidarity. Unit. Enthusiastic. Sparkling. Young and creative.
5. Very nice to hear you talk about a community of solidarity and enthusiasm, especially in times like the present ones, where people often talk about closures and walls. Yours is a great challenge, like opening a bookstore challenging the megastores. what do you think is your winning weapon?
More than the megastores scares amazon. We cannot compete with the efficiency and breadth of their catalog. But our added value, which cannot be supplanted, is humanity that you can find at NOI
Going to a bookstore is not the only purpose to get out of his door with one or two new future readings under his arm. NOI aims to become a forge of encounters, a place of discovery, a space to experiment through collateral activities.
6. In these first months of activity, what do your visitors read?
I cannot answer this question yet; we are too “young”. For now, our editorial selection respects our taste, first of all. It is committed to combining painstaking research into independent productions and small printed paper jewels – including foreign ones – and an equally accurate choice of the best of the most popular publishers. We are studying our customers and we are ready to straighten the shot and welcome and try to satisfy everyone’s requests.
7. Now a mother-to-mother question … how do you and Anna combine your being “at the forefront” in a bookstore and being mothers?
It is difficult to ask a man how he combines his work in the forefront with his being a father. But it is true, it is not obvious that mothers of children so small, like Anna and me, embark on a similar undertaking, so full of questions and commitments. My idea (which for now I haven’t managed to put into practice but maybe it’s soon) is that NOI can become a second home for Noah.
It has a splendid garden, as few corners of Milan have, and is frequented by young parents with children of its age. Potentially his future friends. I like the idea that my son can grow up in such a stimulating environment, where so many things happen, even very different things, and where you see different faces every day. A protected environment but in which it will have the opportunity to live its freedom without always being visually controlled.
Thank you very much Alice, it was really nice to come into your library and into your project.
I left NOI with the feeling of being out of a corner of beauty and tranquility in the still chaotic Milan. Not only for the unique atmosphere that books can give to any place or for the colors of the illustrations, but above all for the community project that is NOI and for the idea that such a place can become a place of growth for the little ones like Noah, who grow among designs, colors, words and beautiful ideas.
Photo credit Studio Liligutt