Biodiverse Roof Garden Added to Iconic Lingotto Factory in Turin

Benedetto Camerana greens a very big roof.

Roof transformation

Mario Schiavone / Benedetto Camerana

In the Talking Heads song "(Nothing but) Flowers," David Byrne wrote:

From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it's nothing but flowers

And here we stand, on the roof of the former Lingotto FIAT factory in Turin, Italy, where architecture firm Benedetto Camerana covered what was a test track—where since 1923 gasoline-powered FIAT cars zipped around in circles after rising up through five floors of the factory—with flowers. It's all wonderfully symbolic.

Inside, looking at ramps
Looking up at the ramps in the Ligotto factory in Turin, Italy.

Lloyd Alter

The building is a modernist icon. Critic and historian Reyner Banham described how it inspired everyone:

"In the twenties all the real mod­ernists had already been up the ramps and had then had themselves photographed standing on the roof. The photographs of D’Annunzio, Marinetti, Le Corbusier I have seen recently; those of Gropius and Owen Williams (the engineer who gave you the Empire Pool at Wembley, the Daily Express building, and those appalling bridges on the first section of the M1 motorway) I have not seen for some time, but I bet they are all in Fiat’s comprehensive archives, together with those of everybody else who ever was anybody in modernism."
Roof of Lingotto building in 2012
Roof of Lingotto building in 2012.

Lloyd Alter

I visited the test track in 2012 and it was ... sad. Much of the building had been renovated by Italian architect Renzo Piano. There was a restaurant in the portion of the building on the roof, but the rest of the roof was just sitting there as a missed opportunity.

Roof lignotto today

Marco Schiavone

Now, La Pista 500 has been commissioned by Stellantis (the new name for FIAT) and curated by Pinacoteca Agnelli.

Planted roof

Marco Schiavone

According to a news release: "The 45,000 specimens of 300 species of local biodiversity sown in the extra-large plant basins around the test track have thrived with very little human help—they have flourished naturally and blended in even more with the track’s tissue."

It is open to the public, displaying artistic and environmental installations. "What is more, sports enthusiasts will be able to practice yoga and meditation in dedicated areas among the flower and herbal basins or jog on the track meandering through the roof garden," stated the release.

Art installations on roof

Marco Schiavone

Among the flowers, there are installations by artists Nina Beier, VALIE EXPORT, Sylvie Fleury, Shilpa Gupta, Louise Lawler, Mark Leckey, and Cally Spooner.

There will still be cars up there, but they won't run on gasoline. "Mondays are dedicated to automotive fans, who will have the opportunity to test drive the new electric Fiat 500 or just look for the newly hatched ducklings of a family of ducks who have spontaneously nested there."

Test track

Marco Sciavone courtesy Benedetto Camerana

The narrower, winding test track looks like it will be a challenge for those electric Fiats. But they can probably be rearranged as required. British journalist Will Jennings visited and tells Treehugger, "It's all in shallow planters and can simply be picked up and moved away if Fiat decides to give it back to another use. That said, it's exciting to be up there."

track on roof in action

Turin Italy Guide

It is all so wonderfully symbolic. A hundred years ago, futurism inspired the design by architect and engineer Giacomo Mattè-Trucco. It was the largest factory in the world, and Italians were entranced by cars and the machine age. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote in the Futurist Manifesto in 1909:

"We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace."

A young architect, Edoardo Persico, is quoted by Banham describing the track as the key feature of the building, noting the entire structure was designed, architecturally and philosophically, to worship speed and the car:

"Atop the building, the test track is like a king’s crown, and just as a crown symbolizes some essential and dominating idea, so here the car and its speed are celebrated in a form that presides over the work of the factory below, not only in terms of the rationality of utility, but also according to some secret standard that regulates the ends of things."
Full rooftop

Marco Schiavone

And now ...

covered in flowers

Marco Schiavone

... it's all covered with flowers, with a few quiet electric Fiat 500s weaving their way between the planters. What a glorious green transformation—both architectural and philosophical.

View Article Sources
  1. "The Gates of Lingotto's Parabolic Rooftop Garden Are Now Open to the Public With an Entertainment Offer for All and Spectacular Walks in Nature, Yoga, Art, and Electric Car Testing." La Pista 500, 27 May 2022. Press release.

  2. Banham, Reyner. "A rooftop racetrack: The Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy (1923)." The Charnel-House: From Bauhaus to Beinhaus.