Fratelli Beretta Production Plant - Marco Castelletti Studio di Architettura
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Fratelli Beretta Production Plant

Integrated Architecture

Marco Castelletti Studio di Architettura

Edited By Luca Maria Francesco Fabris - 4 April 2017

At a time when increasing emphasis is placed on the need for architecture to integrate soft and hard technology, it’s a pleasure to take a break and reflect on an architectural project that slips seamlessly into its context without disappearing into it. Marco Castelletti’s program for the latest food factory of Fratelli Beretta, a major Italian sausage and ham producer, is a case in point. This is the company’s third US factory, born of the need to supply the famous Italian specialties directly from the domestic market, given the strict regulations imposed on imported foodstuffs. Many Italian readers at least may remember filmmaker Monicelli’s 1971 comedy La Mortadella - released in the States as Lady Liberty - in which immigrant Sophia Loren is stopped at New York airport for trying to introduce the famous Bologna sausage into the country! Castelletti, who had already worked with Fratelli Beretta for their pavilion at Milan’s EXPO 2015, adopts his clean, sleek signature style also for this 20,000 square meters production plant. Although located in an industrial park, the green-field site in Mount Olive enjoys such large open spaces between its neighbors - especially to the west of the plot - as to feel immersed in a woodland stretch of New Jersey, aptly nicknamed the Garden State. The building seems to spring up in pristine open countryside - a feature that is all the more striking if you think that New York City is less than a hundred kilometers away. Castelletti himself affirms that what most struck him on visiting the area for the first time was its rural parkland setting. He immediately decided to build a factory that would resonate with its natural environment. This he has achieved with a composition and building finishes that reference the natural elements around and colors and materials echoing the surrounding countryside. The large parallelepiped building comprises prefabricated modular concrete panels. The burnt-brown outer finish harks back to the former brick food factories once a common feature of vernacular New England architecture. The factory segment stands as a definite but at the same time evanescent backdrop to the building housing offices and meeting rooms standing a slight distance away on the eastern edge of the plot. The industrial complex comprises two distinct volumes of different size, height and surface finish. Vehicle parking and the loading and unloading bays are placed on the south and north sides, leaving an unencumbered grassy embankment sloping up from the road on the east front. The 120 meters long office volume stands slightly off the ground on this grassy knoll. Completely clad in cedar wood panels, it stretches across the whole area. A minimalist series of slender larch slats - erected in a return to the balloon-frame building technique - shields the glazed lights of the low building. It is as if the architect wants to dematerialize the long expanse of cinder-block wall. The porous three-dimensional larch curtain shimmers and glints as it catches the light and shadows of the day. Resembling an abstract Piet Mondrian painting, this simple, almost ineffable, screen is an aesthetically pleasing feature enhancing the whole complex. Inside, three distinct functional areas are separated by two inner courts: a series of guest rooms is followed by the first patio leading to the administrative area, which in turn gives onto the second patio and then to the tasting and reception section. The simple layout is furnished in equally sleek simple style. An essential Mies van der Rohe rigueur is the hallmark throughout. Marco Castelletti resorted to the typical lightweight steel frame construction technique used by American industrial architecture. Slender pillars encased in brick walls and lightweight trusses concealed by suspended ceilings allow for large open spaces generously illuminated by full-height glazed lights along the side of the building. Italian-made furniture features throughout the complex. Dry on-site assembly was largely possible thanks to the prevalent use of snap-fit finishing materials. Construction was accordingly swift: after design completion in 2013, the building was finished in just under a year at the end of 2015.

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