The Prancing Horse headquarters features different, at times contrasting, buildings designed by world-renowned architects. We learn why this ‘company town' all'italiana is unique
For many, Maranello - the little town that hosts the Ferrari factory - is a classic example of a ‘company town’. But is this association correct?
The company town concept was born out of the industrial revolution, from enlightened entrepreneurs’ desire to create settlements that met the needs of the people who lived and worked in them. They were self-sufficient, autonomous villages - offering housing, services, schools, places of worship and even entertainment - that revolved around the factory, the ‘vision’ of enlightened business owners who knew that giving workers a better quality of life improved the quality of the product.
There are many historical examples. The most famous were founded where the industrial revolution began. Places such as New Lanark – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – in Scotland, and Saltaire in Yorkshire, in northern England. Here textile mill workers had their own hospitals, concert halls and libraries. Other such villages were created also in Germany, Spain, France - and Italy, whose most famous example is Crespi d’Adda (in Lombardy), also recognised, in 1995, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Can Maranello be considered a ‘factory town’ in this sense? Not really: the ‘Villaggio Ferrari’ – the production facilities – was born not out of a village, but from a road. And it really could not be any other way: where else could the world’s most famous car town have emerged if not alongside a road?
The Ferrari plant was built in Maranello in 1943. Before that Enzo Ferrari had his mechanical factory in Modena, some 15 kilometres to the west sitting on the Via Emilia, one of antiquity’s most important Consular Roads. When Ferrari decided to expand his factory in order to increase production volumes, he at first considered doing it in the municipality of Formigine, which was right next to Maranello. But the local administration refused his request, so he opted for Maranello.
Again, the choice of location was close to a road, in this case what was once the via Giardini, originally established by Duke Francis III of Este in order to connect the town of Modena to the region of Tuscany. Ferrari, however, did not set out to create a company town in the traditional sense: over the decades the Prancing Horse’s high-quality, architecturally advanced, industrial ‘village’ developed alongside the town, with its church and centuries-old inhabited centre and castle.
Visitors go to Maranello to visit the Ferrari Museum - sure - but above all they are very keen on stealing glimpses into the ‘Ferrari Village’. Young designers, especially, are interested in the site, attracted by the new architecture that has risen in recent years. There is the wind tunnel, designed by Renzo Piano, the mechanics workshops, the painting pavilion, the company canteen – all projects by Marco Visconti – and the new sports logistics building, designed by Luigi Sturchio. There are also the new assembly line building, created by Jean Nouvel, and the Product Development Centre, by Massimiliano Fuksas.
Over the years, in the collective imagination, the Ferrari Village and Maranello have become one: the association of the town’s name with Ferrari is automatic for everyone, to the point where the town is often confused with the factory. However it would be wrong to think that the Ferrari use of famous names in architecture is an attempt to emulate a contemporary model used by others - like Facebook, which called on Frank Gehry to design its campus, or Apple, which charged Norman Foster to design its new Cupertino “spaceship” headquarters.
That which is called the “cittadella Ferrari” is not enclosed and ‘shielded’ from its surroundings, distant from everything, as are these other examples. Indeed, all one has to do is take a stroll outside the Ferrari factory to realise how interconnected the Prancing Horse is to its ‘home’: once, just outside the company’s historic headquarters visitors were limited to dining at the Ristorante Cavallino (where Enzo Ferrari used to eat). Today, strolling through Maranello there are many other restaurants and if you’re lucky you might just bump into Ferrari piloti and technicians enjoying regional delicacies.