The iconic Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy is a popular building for architecture enthusiasts and gasoline enthusiasts. Previously housing Fiat’s manufacturing and testing facilities, including a test track on its roof, it has now started a new chapter by hosting a huge roof garden.

Designed by architect Giacomo Matté-Trucco, the Lingotto factory opened in 1923. The magnificent modernist building is 500 m (1,640 ft) long and reaches a height of 28 m (91 ft). While in use, it had an interesting interior layout that involved car parts entering at the ground floor and a finished car emerging at the top, ready to be put through its paces on the rooftop looping test track. , which measures 1 km (0.62 miles).

After car production ended at the site in 1982, there was much discussion about what to do with the towering structure. Luckily, it dodged demolition and was instead refreshed by Renzo Piano, who turned it into a mixed-use office and retail building and added the distinctive glass ball meeting space seen on the photo above, which Piano recently replicated with his Oscar building.

The rooftop garden project is the latest major addition to the evolving site and is called La Pista 500. It was commissioned by Fiat and designed by Benedetto Camerana, of Camerana & Partners. Taking inspiration from New York’s High Line, it involved planting 40,000 plants, bushes and shrubs around the test track.

The vast greenery of La Pista 500 is organized into 28 “islands” and consists of 300 different species

Marco Schiavone, courtesy of Benedetto Camerana

Elsewhere there are relaxation areas, walking paths, an athletics track, a fitness area, a playground, plus a yoga and meditation area. Works of art and exhibitions are also housed in the space. It’s actually hailed as the largest hanging garden in Europe by Camerana, although Nature Urbaine in Paris is a bit larger – although the French project is a working rooftop farm and not strictly a garden.

Obviously, all that greenery will need a lot of water, with 20,094 m (nearly 66,000 ft) of irrigation pipes needed to water it all. However, the architects have taken a few steps to mitigate water consumption, choosing local and drought-resistant plants, as well as water-saving cultivation techniques.

“The garden develops as a contemporary linear park with 28 large islands covering just over 7,000 m² [75,000 sq ft] of 27,000 m² [290,600 sq ft] available,” explained Benedetto Camerana. “It houses more than 40,000 plants belonging to 300 species and varieties chosen with an ecological criterion, so there are only plants from Piedmont and neighboring regions, evenly distributed according to seasonal color variations. For their cultivation, new design techniques have been adopted that have drastically reduced water and fertilizer consumption, a choice dictated by sustainability criteria.”

The Fiat Café 500 features a wooden sculpture of a Fiat 500, as well as an exhibition on the car's history
The Fiat Café 500 features a wooden sculpture of a Fiat 500, as well as an exhibition on the car’s history

Decree

Alongside the rooftop garden, a Fiat 500-themed cafe and museum has also recently opened in the Lingotto building. This space features an eye-catching wooden interior design created by Studio Lamatilde, featuring a wooden model of a Fiat 500 and a display of the car’s history, as well as views of the test track and garden.

Plus, in a nice touch, if you want to release your inner Michael Caine and recreate that Italian work car chase scene, visitors also have the opportunity to test drive Fiat’s electric 500, as well as other electric vehicles, on the famous test track.

Sources: Camerana & Partners, Fiat, Renzo Piano