Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century

Adriano Olivetti's city: a UNESCO site

By Fondazione Adriano Olivetti

Complesso di costruzioni Olivetti lungo Via Jervis a Ivrea (2010) by Francesco MattuzziFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The stories of places are often stories of surprising changes, evolutions and revolutions. This is certainly the case for "Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century", added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on 1st July 2018. In Ivrea, slices of black and white twentieth-century Italian history are interspersed with the colours and transformations of the present.

Adriano Olivetti davanti agli stabilimento Olivetti di Ivrea.Fondazione Adriano Olivetti

Between the 1930s and the 1960s, Adriano Olivetti transformed the city of typewriters into an open-air workshop that was a hotbed of entrepreneurial and social experimentation.

Mappa della città industriale di IvreaFondazione Adriano Olivetti

Around the factory, Adriano Olivetti built his Community, a unique social reform project that successfully combined development, fairness and justice. Production plants, homes and social services form the heart of the UNESCO site, made up of eighteen buildings.

La storica fabbrica in mattoni rossi in Via Jervis a Ivrea. Prima sede della "Ing. C. Olivetti & C. - Prima fabbrica nazionale macchine per scrivere". (1908) by Camillo OlivettiFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The early twentieth century.

Camillo Olivetti began producing typewriters in the "Red Brick" factory in 1908. Built at the end of the nineteenth century, the building was designed by Camillo himself in the style of the industrial workshops of the beginning of the century, guided by the paradigm of the closed workplace.

La fabbrica di "Mattoni Rossi"Original Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Gruppo maestranze Olivetti. (1918)Fondazione Adriano Olivetti

In 1924, there were 400 employees producing around 4,000 machines a year; in 1926, production reached 8,000 machines with 500 employees; in 1929, 13,000 typewriters were produced.

Casa per operai di Borgo OlivettiOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

In parallel with the factory's rapid expansion, Camillo launched a series of policies to support employees, creating an initial cluster of houses for workers at the start of the '20s: Borgo Olivetti (the Olivetti Village).

Casa per operai di Borgo OlivettiOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Today, the "Red Brick" factory lies empty. Along with three successive enlargements to the ICO (Ing. Camillo Olivetti) workshops, the factory is currently being studied by the ICONA group with a view to restoring it to a usable condition.

Corso JervisOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Adriano Olivetti's reign

When Adriano Olivetti took over at the beginning of the 1930s, the development of the factory moved up a gear, with innovation the order of the day. The young Olivetti became president in 1938 and, at just over thirty years of age, he called upon the architects of his generation. Alongside the development of the factory, he charged them with bringing to life the dream of a visionary landscape in which industrial modernisation was combined with the innovative reorganisation of spaces. Ivrea became the meeting point for a generation of architects who revolutionised the profile of the city, leaving a legacy of some of the most important creations of Italian modernism and rationalism.

Terzo ampliamento, Officine ICOFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The workshops were expanded several times between 1934 and 1958 by Luigi Figini and Gino Pollini. Olivetti grew rapidly, and its home soon became the "glass factory": a harmonious and geometrically precise facade, linear in its functionality, representing a break with the previous concept of industrial civilisation from an urban planning standpoint.

The "glass factory" offered transparency and brightness: what was happening outside could be seen from inside and vice versa, a concrete example of how to create a harmonious production site in the Canavese community.

Veduta Officine ICO e della Chiesa di San Bernardino.Original Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

The proximity of the production sites, the church of San Bernardino and the convent – where Camillo Olivetti had moved with his family in 1907 – is one of the most distinctive features of the industrial city. The church, still owned by the Olivetti family, lies on the edge of the UNESCO site, although it is not among the registered buildings. Inside, you can see the sixteenth-century frescoes by Gian Martino Spanzotti.

"And so we citizens of the community go together in search of the spiritual nourishment that men need to exalt their spirit and to discover the nobility of their heart, since man's sadness is more profound until he reveals to himself his true inner consciousness: that which is enclosed, tightly bound, in the depths of his soul."
Adriano Olivetti

Veduta aerea di IvreaFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The new Ivrea  

The studies and the project for the master plan filed in 1938 were fundamental to the development of the industrial city. The Municipality of Ivrea entrusted this plan to Luigi Figini, Egisippo Devoti and Luigi Piccinato. The plan defined the new profile of the city: it embraced the ongoing factory expansion projects and designated new areas for workers' homes. The studies for the master plan, which would be reformulated and implemented at a later date, were nonetheless incorporated into the "Studies and proposals for the Valle d'Aosta master plan".

Piano di un quartire nuovo a IvreaFondazione Adriano Olivetti

"The plan that we present here was drawn up by the architects Luigi Figini and Gino Pollini in 1934 to impose order on the societal problems of a factory limited to a thousand employees at the time.
In these conditions, the plan, although influenced by architectural concepts designed to achieve maximum economy in terms of housing, represents a fascinating attempt to create certain conditions that I will briefly list here: a) Functionality, meaning the overall framework of the worker's social life with respect to the source of life and coordination with educational, recreational and political activities b) Architectural harmony - The plan involved an aesthetic composition incorporating the landscape and harmony between the volumes of each individual building"
Adriano Olivetti

Copertina del Piano Regolatore della Valle d'AostaFondazione Adriano Olivetti

Centro di formazione meccaniciFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The “factory of good”  

Following the Second World War, Adriano returned to Ivrea after a period of exile and decided to take the reins of the factory, using it as the basis for the pilot project for a new social order. In this period, Olivetti expanded its cultural and welfare programmes with cutting-edge initiatives. Work on the assembly line went from being a driver of unhappiness to an instrument of redemption.

collage di copertineFondazione Adriano Olivetti

"For the first time, we have brought to all the countryside villages and all the mountain towns what I call our secret weapons: books, cultural courses, inventions and artworks." Adriano Olivetti  

Asilo nido di Borgo OlivettiFondazione Adriano Olivetti

Veduta interna dell'asilo nido di Borgo Olivetti a IvreaOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Asilo nido di Borgo Olivetti.Fondazione Adriano Olivetti

"The advancement of a people can be seen in the number, the importance and the suitability of its social structures, in the extent to which it exalts and protects everything necessary for culture and, in a word, for the spiritual and physical upbringing of its children. This social system, however, is still the privilege of the few."Adriano Olivetti

estratto da Incontro con la Olivetti di Giorgio FerroniFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The social services building, constructed in the second half of the Fifties, distanced itself from the rationalist style of the workshops opposite, designed by the same architects a few years earlier. It was divided into two buildings, with one home to the library and social services and the other housing the infirmary.
The original furnishings can still be seen in one of the parts that lies unused today.

Mensa aziendale OlivettiFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The company canteen is located towards the rear of the workshop complex and is one of the best examples of the dialogue between architecture and landscape.
The hexagonal building, designed by Ignazio Gardella, had many different functions: from the canteen to spaces for reading, cultural encounters and relaxation.

The outdoor spaces and greenery were an integral part of the structure, interacting with the interiors through large windows.

Casa popolare di Borgo OlivettiFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The Olivetti houses  

Casa per famiglie numeroseFondazione Adriano Olivetti

Casa unifamiliare per dirigenti OlivettiOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Il condominio BellotOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Villa CapellaroOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Villa RossiOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Edificio diciotto alloggiOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Casa quattro alloggiOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

Manifesto istituzionale OlivettiFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The languages of innovation       

The Fifties were a time of great change and experimentation for Olivetti, both nationally and internationally. The company built its first showrooms and factories abroad, its investments in electronics (which would eventually lead to the first personal computer) proved to be a great success, and Ivrea continued to expand.  

Centro Studi ed Esperienze OlivettiOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

The innovative use of colour was introduced to the industrial city by the architect Eduardo Vittoria, who created two iconic buildings: the Study and Experience Centre and the Thermal Power Station.  

The Study and Experience Centre, which is not currently in use, is due to be redeveloped. In 2019, it will become the new head office of Olivetti's headquarters in Ivrea.

Centrale termicaOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

L' Officina HFondazione Adriano Olivetti

Eduardo Vittoria was also tasked with designing the roof of the H Workshop. In this project, the Neapolitan architect combined functionality and beauty: the roof consists of twenty square skylights, allowing employees to work under natural light with fresh air coming in.

Nowadays, the H Workshop is used as a space for events and shows. It is also home to "Boogie-woogie", a mural by Renato Guttuso, created in 1945 for the Olivetti showroom in Rome.

Interno di Palazzo Uffici OlivettiFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The industrial city after Adriano

The development of the industrial city continued even after 1960, the year of Adriano Olivetti's untimely death. The buildings erected between the Sixties and the Eighties testify to the major transformations to the company's profile during this time.

Interno Palazzo Uffici Olivetti a Ivrea.Fondazione Adriano Olivetti

The first studies for Olivetti's main office building, Palazzo Uffici, were drawn up in the Fifties, but it was a few more years until it was constructed. The building was designed to provide a home for the company’s administration, management and marketing departments. The central section, which had three arms coming off it, featured a monumental staircase with a Murano glass roof.

Unità Residenziale OvestFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The West Residential Unit, better known as Talponia, was designed as a residence to offer hospitality to Olivetti employees visiting from all over the world for short periods.
The spectacular building was carved into the hill, while the furniture in its lodgings was designed by the architects themselves.

Interno Unità Residenziale OvestFondazione Adriano Olivetti

Vista aerea di Palazzo Uffici e Nuovo Palazzo UfficiOriginal Source: Immagine tratta dal Dossier di Candidatura di "Ivrea Città Industriale del XX secolo" nella World Heritage List UNESCO

The construction of the industrial city came to an end with the Nuovo Palazzo Uffici (New Office Building) at the end of the 1980s. With this building, the company reasserted Ivrea's position as its management hub during a phase of robust manufacturing growth in which it developed its international presence.

Adriano OlivettiFondazione Adriano Olivetti

The bond that links the name of Olivetti to Ivrea and Canavese is now more than a century old. Adriano died over fifty years ago, and now more than ever, his name and story are evoked as an example of how to tackle the crisis of our times and, more generally, as a new way of looking at the relationship between the worlds of manufacturing, civil society and culture. A wealth of experiences and values imprinted on the industrial city of Ivrea, which is finally a world heritage site.

Estratto della 42esima sessione del Comitato per il patrimonio mondiale UNESCOFondazione Adriano Olivetti

Since 2008, the UNESCO site application project has been promoted by the Adriano Olivetti Foundation, the Municipality of Ivrea and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Over the years, other institutional, public and private partners have joined the team.
The Foundation is based in Rome and in Ivrea, at Adriano Olivetti's study/museum in Villa Belli Boschi, his last home. It lies on the hill at the edge of the Olivetti factory site.

Credits: Story

A cura di
Matilde Trevisani

La mostra è stata realizzata grazie alla collaborazione di:

Archivio Nazionale Cinema d'Impresa
Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti
Cabina di regia di "Ivrea città industriale del XX secolo"
Comune di Ivrea
Fondazione Guelpa
Fondazione Natale Capellaro
ICONA
Museo Laboratorio Tecnologic@mente
Società Grand Rascard
Telecom Italia Spa
UNESCO

Per approfondire:
Dossier di candidatura a sito UNESCO di "Ivrea, città industriale del XX secolo", 2016.
Ivrea. Guida città di Adriano Olivetti, Marco Peroni, Edizioni di Comunità, Roma/Ivrea, 2016.
Studi e proposte preliminari per il Piano regolatore della Valle d'Aosta, Edizioni di Comunità, Torino, 2001.
Costruire la città dell'uomo. Adriano Olivetti e l'urbanistica, Carlo Olmo, Edizioni di Comunità, Torino, 2001.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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