Redeveloping an abandoned area thus facilitating shopping for autistic people, so as to make it part of a daily routine. Here is the ambitious project of the new Monza Coop.

What is the Autism Friendly Coop in Monza ?

Via Marsala in Monza. In an area abandoned for twenty years where the former CGS once stood, rises a peculiar supermarket: the first in Italy catered for autistic people with their families. The Coop store was inaugurated on September 10 and represents a significant step towards inclusivity in large-scale distribution, as well as an important recovery and redevelopment project of an abandoned area between via Marsala and via Solferino. Leading the work team that transformed the area of 11,000 square metres is architect Giorgio Motta with TP4 studio in Cantù, who chose to install solar panels on the roof of the structure and an “abstract forest” on the main square, with inserts of greenery, wood and coloured glass.

How the Autism Friendly Coop in Monza works

An investment of about 25 million euros for a sales area of 2,500 metres, staff of 85 people, including 57 new professional profiles: these are the numbers of the project, which boasts 350 parking spaces: “Our goal was to to make shopping easy, not only by arranging goods, but by guiding their purchases,” said Andrea Colombo, General Manager of Operations. Inside the supermarket, in fact, there are specific paths for different types of shopping, from the Foodie section for the most demanding gourmands, to the Green section for those who have chosen to follow a sustainable lifestyle, and the Easy option for quick and easy shopping. Then there is the Wellness department for lovers of fitness and also the Pet-Friendly one for those who need to shop for their pets. And shopping lists will hardly be needed anymore: the Move It mechanical arms appear from the aisles offering customers the products needed to complete purchases.

What does an Autism Friendly supermarket signify

The real novelty of the initiative, however, is the ability to include and involve autistic people as well, so that everyone can shop with ease and ease. This was possible thanks to a collaboration with  Nico Acampora, creator of PizzAut, a pizzeria run by autistic youngsters gathered under the association umbrella founded by Nico and inaugurated thanks to the money raised through crowdfunding in Cassina de’ Pecchi, in the Milanese hinterland. The staff of the Coop shop was trained by psychologists and psychotherapists experts in autism, who offered the staff all the tools necessary to encourage communication with autistic customers and facilitate their stay in the store. There are therefore a series of visual, luminous and communicative devices inside the store, where the volume of the music and the intensity of the light have been specifically adjusted to make all customers feel comfortable. No acoustic signals will come from the cashier speakers, where autistic people have priority in the queue. Finally, the signage of the products was created following the criteria of Augmentative Alternative Communication, submitted and approved by experts on the subject and a autistic focus group.

Also contributing to the project is Neshat Asgari, founder of the Alla3 Onlus association–who designed the pictograms for the signage–and Italian singer Elio–father of an autistic boy–who hope to transform the new Coop into the supermarket with the highest turnover “so that it may become an example imitated by all the other supermarkets.” It’s therefore necessary to support the project, encourage spending habits that are more inclusive than ever and open to all: “There is nothing else besides this initiative: nothing worse than seeing what can be done and is not done, like a tree that is not watered and slowly dies.”

by Michela Becchi