Rooted in the Territory and Projected into the Future
A high technology complex, while respecting the environment and people, an expression of industrial history and culture. A building where the manufacturing and service industries, once scattered throughout the territory, can now be hosted under the same roof. These were, in essence, the requirements of the 2017 competition by invitation launched by Gruppo Ferrero to design a new building for its technical innovation center in its own industrial complex located in Alba, Italy. The Ferrero Technical Center would host an area for both state-of-the-art machineries and offices for designers and employees.
The starting point of the project was the landscape of Langhe, with its picturesque hills set amidst age-old vineyards and hazelnut woodlands, from which the essential ingredient of the Client’s production comes. The Company is firmly rooted in the territory, and its historical production center is still located in Alba, Italy, where everything started. As a consequence, the new technological innovation center draws its uniqueness from the surrounding landscape. This is achieved through the colours of the external surfaces, evoking the autumn manes of the local trees, but also by bringing the landscape into the center through the dominating presence of hanging gardens and grand glazed surfaces rendering the building wide open to the surrounding world.
For such a context-sensitive and technologically cutting-edge building, pursuing excellence in ecological sustainability was necessary as well. The Ferrero Technical Center is therefore designed to be a nearly Zero Energy Building (nZEB), and consequently its environmental impact is minimized. A significant amount of energy is produced by the photovoltaic system placed on the roof, guaranteeing a nearly 300 kW power peak, which is enough to power almost a hundred apartments. However, what makes the real difference is the design geared towards optimisation of resources at every level, from the macroscopic to microscopic.
The building – a 160 m long, 26 m wide and 18 m high parallelepiped – lies at the Ferrero plant’s perimeter on the outskirts of Alba, oriented on the east-west longitudinal axis. The plot is delineated by the Tanaro River dike, which helps mitigate the well-known risk of flooding in the area. With its colours and shapes, therefore, the innovation center stands out as a landmark for those driving along the highway.
The project aimed at bringing together under one roof the activities of research, design and development of the machines used by Ferrero sites around the world. Behind the scenes of producing world-renowned chocolates and spreadable creams are extraordinarily valuable industrial secrets. Thus, the company understandably decided to maintain utmost confidentiality on production lines, which are designed and created in Alba, and then delivered to production units across five continents. However, until recently these operations were managed in different locations. Hence, the need to build a single center, where engineers could design machines side by side with the technicians who would build them, thereby optimising synergies and workflow. Together with them, architects, engineers and all the technicians looking after factory infrastructure – almost 200 employees – found a new workplace as well.
The FERRERO Technical Center was designed according to the principles of "slow architecture": highly energy efficient spaces, designed over time, so as to adapt to future needs, locally rooted and naturally progressive. For a building so linked to the environment in which it stands and to the cutting edge of technology, the focus was also on excellence in terms of sustainability.
Enrico Frigerio was born in Turin. In 1980 he graduated with a degree in Architecture from the University of Genova and learned his trade working side by side with Renzo Piano. In 1991 he founded Frigerio Design Group, setting quality and the relationship with the environment its main goal. He is the promoter of "Slow Architecture", philosophy behind progressive architecture with a reduced ecological footprint that draws its resources from the context for its definition.
Some of FDG’s most significant projects include: the Terna’s power station in Capri (2017) the Headquarters of Crédit Agricole Italia, Parma (2018), the Zamasport Factory, Novara (2020), the Headquarters of Arcaplanet in Carasco, the residential complex in Saronno (2020), the Ferrero Technical Center in Alba (2022) and the eco-sustainable residential complex Albòra in Genoa.
The energy transition of the ENEL plant in Fusina and the refitting of the Rosenthal offices in Selb Germany are currently under construction.