Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fiat Works in Turin Italy - Futurism: speed, technology, youth and violence.

Lingotto Fiat circa 1920's

Pictures often circulate on the internet gaining lots of buzz, especially with the advent of social media outlets like, well you know.... With the steady onslaught of imagery bombarding the brain, it's easy to develop a short attention span and simply click "like", move on and forget as the incoming fire of photo's never cease. The photos of the rooftop racetrack on top of Lingotto Fiat-Works building has gone viral (many times), though many viewers have responded "is this real?" "is this still around?" seemingly forgetting about the little search-box at the top of their web browsers window. The Fiat building in Turin (Torino in Italiano) is more than just the cool concept, it's actually regarded as the first Futurist architectural accomplishment (Futurist credo: Destroy the cult of the past... Support and glory in our day-to-day world....). Designed by Giacomo Mattè Trucco, construction started during WWI in 1916 and was completed in 1923. The structure became one of the flagships for post war Italy though by this point, the original Futrurists had splintered into many different factions - including the rising tide of Fascists. Mussolini utilized the Fiat factory to further the war efforts in WWII - with a slight twist of irony, the design of the assembly line contained within the walls of Lingotto Fiat was directly lifted from the forerunners of the free market - Ford Motors of America.

Planes (albeit very outdated) being assembled by Fiat during WWII

The Fiat Works building fully embodied the words and ideas of the futurist movement documented in Filippo Tommasa Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto: 'Speed' - from the lines of the long, linear factory walls to the bowled test track on the buildings roof; 'Technology',- the building itself feat in engineering, designed to mass produce, test, improve, repeat; 'Youth and violence' - test riding a car on a one kilometer track, several stories above ground level presents an inherent risk of life for the young drivers; 'The auto/aero industry' -producing new and improved forms of transportation including planes; Finally the 'industrial city' - the Fiat Works building  tied all the demands from the manifesto into one mammoth Futurist machine.

One of two spiral drives up to the roof top race track. Futurist architecture at it's finest.
The beauty of the building is rivaled only by the highly efficient yet surprisingly simple concept of manufacturing. The raw materials were delivered to the ground floor. Parts were forged, panels were beaten and eventually ended up on the assembly line which spiraled up the building, where the finished car would emerge on the rooftop track for a test run. From there it would descend the spiral drive down to the ground floor, lined up with the others and eventually and shipped off.

The 1km test track was the first of it's kind and the building was (of its time) the largest facility in the world and inspired many companies to model their factories after Fiat - though only a few had rooftop tracks. One of these knock offs was by the French auto-company Imperia, who's building still remains today, though in ruins.

The Imperia factory rooftop track as it stands today. Not quite rideable... yet. Challenge, anyone?
The first and best rooftop track being used at fiat.  Test driver for Fiat, best job ever?
In 1982, Fiat officially closed it's Lingotto factory due to newer, cheaper and more efficient means of manufacturing . The building is still used today - a shopping mall resides in part of the spiral drive to the roof. The roof track itself is open to the public for viewing and is complete with a museum telling the buildings significance in industrial, cultural, political and architectural history.

While scooters are very cool, those on top of the bank look like they're on a hill climb.
In September 2011, RedBull sponsored a scooter ride on Fiats infamous track. Scooterists stormed the steep 15 foot banks at breathtakingly slow speeds - but was a photo opportunists dream come true. Retro bikes on a 90 year old racetrack - with RedBull signs galore.

On one hand, the mall below represents the future of our culture - consumerism. Buying new computers and phones and tossing out last years model is exactly the principle the Futurists wanted to apply... to everything! On the other hand, "racing" vintage Vespas on a building that is nearly a century old? Filippo Tommasa Marinetti is surely rolling over in his grave!


Check out the first segment of this video to see inside the original Fiat Works Factory.

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