It’s 1934, and a not-so-young Charles Edouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier, is boldldy posing at the wheel of a Fiat Balilla Spider Corsa, for a picture that will soon become iconic as his manifesto of Modern living and thinking.
All of a sudden it’s 2021, and a spot of buttercups is shaken by the whirring yet silent motion of an electric Fiat 500.
Do these scenes have anything in common? Of course they have, and it is the space where they are happening: an asphalt rectangle overlooking the hills of Turin since almost one century, belonging to the world famous rooftop testing track of the former Lingotto Fiat plant.
More precisely, the second scene happens as a consequence of a project recently completed by Benedetto Camerana: La Pista 500.
The testing track is back in operation — cars can be driven again across its winding path, specifically the new 500e by Fiat — but at the same time it is invaded by what the designer has defined as a “third landscape” à la Gilles Clement: 28 green islands where plants and shrubs are growing , belonging to 300 local different local species (“from no farther than 200 kilometers”), intended to be spontaneously multiplying and requiring very little effort for their maintenance, attracting different animal species such as dragonflies, butterflies, multiple varieties of insects and birds. The final result is a linear hanging garden, a park including relax and fitness areas, a restaurant and the Casa 500, the showcase to the new generation of electric vehicles being developed by Fiat.
Although a might multiplicity of questions might have risen since its announcement (the landmark, its historic value, greenery as a quite universal solution…), this project is actually reviving the racetrack probably in the most appropriate shape and function it might have in the 2020s. The track as the 20s are requiring.
First of all, La pista 500 is just the most recent between countless chapters in a story of continuous evolution: since its completion, but mostly after the production shutdown in 1982, the Lingotto plant has been a hotspot for urban transformation and experimentation in Turin, often anticipating the changes that would later shape the entire urban system (masterplans for instance, the 2006 Olympics facilities, the enhancement of university network and so on) and always keeping a trait of uniqueness. History, moreover, has carried on. Production is no longer the connecting factor linking a brand — which is getting more and more global — to its one company town. The present connection between Fiat and the city of Turin is rather built on matters of image and cultural heritage.
The shapes of La Pista 500 are in fact giving a built shape to the contemporary mobility trends, currently characterized by major investments in the development of electric road vehicles. The projects aims to address such trends, while combining the reactivation of an otherwise nearly dismissed space with the highest degree of reversibility in all interventions: the green islands curated by Giardino Segreto - Cristiana Ruspa, besides having an active role in mitigating the heath impact on the roof (with positive consequences on air conditioning requirements), can be easily removed; moreover, their local third landscape establishes an ideal dialogue on sustainability with the tropical garden created in 1982 by Renzo Piano in one of the Lingotto courtyards just below.
More than embodying some vaguely defined Zeitgeist, La Pista 500 is actually mirroring with the highest precision all the open visions and discourses winding through our days.
Still, there is one aspect where this project is making a countertrend statement: the Lingotto rooftop is in fact becoming a public park, in times where privatization, further segregation and the creation of new enclosures have been often and widely chosen as responses to the pandemic crisis.
- La Pista 500
- Benedetto Camerana
- Design team:
- Mattia Greco, Alberto Domini, Laura Acito, Gabriele Rossi, Antonio Pangallo, Andrea Tomasino
- Landscape design:
- Benedetto Camerana, Cristiana Ruspa (Giardino Segreto)
- Botanical design:
- Cristiana Ruspa (Giardino Segreto)
- Dekra specialist advice and certification:
- DROMO Engineering Architecture and Landscape
- Mechanical systems design and structural consultancy:
- Francesco Guarino (Gierregi Ingegneria)
- Electrical systems project:
- Alberto Richiero (Gierregi Ingegneria)
- Fire protection consultancy:
- Massimo Pasquero (Pi Greco Engineering)
- Stellantis Group
- Technical supplies:
- Opening date:
- September 22, 2021