Ferrero Technical Center represents the new level of integration between industrial architecture, natural landscape, process sustainability and workers' well-being. When slow architecture puts man at the centre

Alba is deeply rooted in the Langa, with its history, its people, its landscape: sun, clouds, hills, farmsteads, cellars, paths, vineyards, seasons, colours. That Langa dotted with an infinity of villages and hamlets that made Cesare Pavese write (in Luna e i falò) that 'a village means not being alone, knowing that in the people, in the plants, in the land there is something of yours, that even when you are not there it remains waiting for you'. A land that knows how to tell, to those who know how to listen, legends, stories, traditions that speak of toil, of hands, of arms that have worked the land and the countryside for centuries, until becoming part of it.

A project in tune with the territory

The main protagonist of this project is the Langa territory: a landscape, a nature, a palette of colours that define the geometric continuum on which an iconic industrial volume is grafted (in tune with the natural context of the Langa and Alba, where the Ferrero Group's largest Italian plant is located) that the designer has reinterpreted through abstract lines in the warm shades of an autumnal landscape. A simple, living architecture that welcomes and guards a technology that is not shouted, that cannot be seen but is there. Ferrero Technical Center, designed by Frigerio Design Group, is a fine example of industrial architecture 4.0 under the banner of total quality based on an automated and interconnected production system between men and machines.

Different but connected functions

Opacity and transparency are calibrated to emphasise the functions of each environment: on the upper levels, the spaces destined for management and operational offices, meeting and work rooms, and staff areas are characterised by transparent façades; while those housing the workshop and production facilities for the Ferrero plants, located on the ground floor together with all the activities related to their design, are hidden from view. The aim of the project was to accommodate different but closely related functions. The structure is completed by a flat, projecting roof that juts out to the south with a light canopy with a sunshade made of elliptical blades, protecting the office windows from the sun's rays.

A suspended promenade

The full-height entrance hall for employees and visitors, entirely glazed, concentrates in a single space the perception of the Ferrero philosophy that animates the building: transparency, trust, sobriety. Here, a scenic vibrant red metal staircase crosses the volume like a sort of suspended walkway and offers a first view of some of the activities in the heart of the building: the triple height of the hall is overlooked by the large windows of the mezzanines that house experimental areas, meeting rooms, offices for consultants, a relaxation area and staff changing rooms.

Hidden technology

The workshop houses the assembly of machinery. A regular floor plan with white structures where workings and installations are left exposed. Openings in the façades capture natural light and air, protecting from direct sunlight, reinterpreting the traditional industrial shed that could not be reproduced in this building due to the stratification of functions: architect Enrico Frigerio calls them "gills, elements that allow the building to breathe". The infill panels enclosing the volume have a micro-perforated, sound-absorbing inner face to improve the quality of the rooms and contain noise pollution.

Comfort working

The office area has emotional spaces that stimulate the senses in search of the right comfort. Materials and colours reproduce the nature of the Langa that surrounds the building, making the work environments a true landscape at high altitude: "green patios, real flying gardens" as the designer defines them, are inserted in the centre of the large open space for bioclimatic, acoustic and aesthetic purposes. In addition to offices, the open space hosts meeting rooms, private spaces, relaxation areas, ergonomic workstations open to the landscape. The interior design project develops from the key element of the colour green modulated in three different shades: on the linoleum flooring, alternating with bamboo wood and in the succession of open and suspended gardens. Designed to meet people's needs, comfort and wellbeing, the spaces absorb natural light and air and have been designed according to the principles of biophilia, using greenery as a system to regulate the microclimate and including coffee, hazelnut and pomegranate plants.

Sustainable and smart

The entire building, bioclimatic and nZEB (nearly Zero Energy Building), was developed to minimise carbon dioxide emissions. The volume is compact, made of industrial materials, mostly dry-laid: it maximises passive inputs (light, air and sunlight) and minimises resources for operation and maintenance. A photovoltaic system on the roof ensures energy production. Thanks to opposing openings, the rooms can be naturally ventilated in the mid-season. The offices are air-conditioned with radiant ceiling systems that also perform a sound-absorbing function. The outdoor car parks guarantee light pollution protection thanks to a smart system that only controls their switching on in the presence of traffic.

Photographs by A. Positano and G. Cambiaggi | Studio Campo, E. Cano