Maybe one day the San Siro will be recalled by the ancients as it is left to ruin. Its gargantuan towers might sink into the lands that surrounds its majesty and disappear for forever – who knows?  

Certainly, if latest stories are to be believed a new San Siro Stadium may well rise up and be home to Inter and AC Milan. This quartiere of Milan is none for its hard working nature and by 2026 a new language of football may be played at the Nuovo San Siro.

But the Guiseppe Meazza and its eleven towers as we currently know them might not be left to ruin and demolition after all according to latest reports. An injunction has been granted to maintain its heritage and importance to the city of Milan.

Responding to early plans to flatten it some 175 architects, writers, historians, academic and other public figures have written in protest to the mayor of Milan, calling for the existing stadium to be retained.

They warned the demolition proposals could see ‘fragments of the historical stadium … reduced to a sort of fake ruin surrounded by greenery’.

Then there are the ‘green’ concerns – or as they call it the ‘enormous disposal costs of steel and reinforced concrete structures, both in economic and environmental terms’ which will be huge.

Let’s see what the future holds.

The Towers of San Siro

Milano is home to La Scala and the majestic Duomo Cathedral.  Both buildings stand resplendent in Milan. But some way to the west sits another Cathedral, that one which Milan and Inter Milan call home – the Giuseppe Meazza San Siro Stadium or as some know it ‘La Scala del Calcio’.

The San Siro has been a symbol of architectural excellence since 1925. Of the stadia in Europe that any football fan may want to visit the San Siro is on the bucket list of the vast majority.

When I first went to the San Siro in 1996 you had to walk from Lotto Metro and squeeze into a cramped yellow tram on the way back. After the Champions League Final of 2001 Bayern and Valencia fans streamed back into the city centre on these trams.  Now with the M5 San Siro metro line operational the immediate step up to daylight from below sees the welcome sight of a majestic roof that looks as if it hovers above the playing surface.

On a sunny day – like on that fabled day in June 1990 – the sun overhead casts intricate shadows across the pitch creating for those inside an enclosed and special feel. By night towering lighting systems dangle and suspend from the roof illuminating the field.

This is a place that is an intricate mix of technology and architecture – scoreboards, concrete towers, girders and plastic seating.  The seating sections of the ground are colour coded only adding to the mix – blue, orange to name only two.

The San Siro with its 75,817 seats is today the largest stadium in Italy. The structure, featuring high standards of comfort and safety, is also classified amongst UEFA’s Category 4 hosting Champions League finals and many fixtures of the Italian national team.

It’s the four corner towers that have always fascinated me. 

Outside I gaze at them like an amazonian tribesman seeing an aeroplane for the first time. Inside its not unlike me to stand in the towers gazing out from one of the many portholes at its vast expanses.

These four corner towers are complemented by seven intermediate towers all of which are sustained by box beams.   But the four corner towers stand out beyond the bleachers reaching the roof level and provide an spiralled awe-inspiring welcome to any visitor.

These towers were designed by Ragazzi and Partners and added before the 1990 World Cup. The towers were designed in such a way as to complement the zig-ziggy multi storey carpark modernistic feel of the exterior.   

In the 1950s, 19 external pedestrian ramps were added to the ground.  These ramp stairways create a distinctive envelope around the stadium and provide comfortable entrance gates for all fans so often used to stairwells.

Today the San Siro is a synthesis of so many ideas, historical periods whether the 50’s or 90’s, different approaches and aesthetics. Such are the different periods of development it has crested a hybrid structure of postmodernism and high-tech.

The massive tubular legs also known as ‘towers’ are stairwells – a dizzy 6-minute whirl upwards for those with tickets for the top tiers or a sad hurried decent downwards on the way out. The effect is reminiscent of a medieval castle: this is stadium that is a wall with bastions that provide both structure and circulation for humble visitors   

As you encircle your way up you can gaze across at others who look like they are making way through a multi-storey parking garage with helical ramps – a ‘continuous ring’ feel.

At match end you stand in awe when going down the towers – a dizzying spiral of a decent – diagonals against spirals and everyone leaving the stadium in an adjacent tower in a busy contrasting hurry into the afternoon or night.

Historic Timeline

1925: Piero Pirelli, then President of AC Milan, urged the construction of a football stadium near the Hippodromo del Trotto.

1935: After purchasing the stadium, in 1935 the City of Milan started an expansion operation with the construction of four connecting curves among the original bleachers and the enhancement of its overall capacity.

1955: A supporting structure was built to support the second level of bleachers that stood over and partly covered the old ones. The total capacity thus rose to 85,000 spectators, with around 60,000 seating places. The architectural outline of the stadium was renewed by the modern helical ramps that allow access to the second ring.

1967: Ten years later the electronic billboard is installed.

1980: The Italian temple of soccer was named in memory of the unforgettable Giuseppe Meazza, Milanese player of Inter and Milan and twice World Champion with the National team.

1990: At the 1990 World Cup, the City of Milan decides to begin a profound renewal of the stadium.

April 25th, 1990: The stadium is inaugurated on April 25, 1990, a few weeks before hosting the opening match of the FIFA world championships.

Stadium Statistics

  • Stadium: San Siro Giuseppe Meazza
  • Ground Capacity: 85,700
  • Opening: 19th September 1926
  • First game: AC Milan v Inter Milan
  • Main Load Bearing girders weigh 1050 tonnes
  • Each girder has a span of 205 metres.
  • The eleven towers are cylindrical and layered with ramps which are 300 metres in length from top to bottom.