The original Fiat factory in Lingotto, Turin
Automotive Past Grandeur
The Fiat car company and its founders the Agnelli family are the perfect medium to understand the development of Italian politics, industry and design in the 20th Century.
Giovanni Agnelli sat in the driving seat, so to speak, in the rapidly developing car industry. He’d been to Ford in Detroit and was very clear about what he wanted to introduce to Italy. He understood the importance of reaching a mass market and the necessity to find a way to ramp up production. He had several interim factories before Lingotto, which would become Europes’ largest car production facility at one point. The huge new factory designed by Giacomo Mattè-Trucco dominated the Lingotto district of Turin. 500m long, five storeys high and with a test track on the roof (immortalized in the film The Italian Job).
Fiat is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino but it’s also a Latin expression, ‘Let it be done.’
The factory was operational from 1923 to 1982 and it’s hard to believe, given the fame of the building, is that there has been no car production on site for more than 30 years. But the Agnellis knew that in its post motor life Lingotto had a real value. Less than 2 years on from the production lines being switched off, new ideas were being considered for the space.
Italian architect Renzo Piano won a 1982 competition to change the exhausted factory into a very different space.
Renzo Piano Building Workshop explains,
‘The building’s exterior remains largely unaltered, but its interior was completely modified in order to accommodate an exhibition centre, a conference centre and auditorium, two hotels, offices and retail space. In 1997, Fiat group’s management headquarters returned to the office block. In 2002, Turin Polytechnic’s automotive engineering department was also installed in the building.’
Today we can get a real sense of the magnificent design of the building from Belgian photographer, Reginald Van de Velde’s photos. He notes that Ligotto is one of the finest ways of experiencing in person ‘automotive past grandeur’ and reminds us that ‘there are only three factories in the world that have a rooftop test track. This is one of them. Bucket list material without doubt’.
More about Reginald Van de Velde
Reginald’s awarding winning photos have been widely exhibited including at the New York Photo Festival, Somerset House in London. He’s been published in National Geographic Magazine, Wired, Esquire and numerous other publications. Awards include the Grand Prix de la Découverte at the Cannes Lions International Festival and in 2020 the Aerial Photography Award.
See more of Reginald’s photos on his website Suspiciousminds