Turin is now host to Europe’s largest hanging garden, set high above the concrete modernist curves of the Fiat company’s Lingotto Factory. A collaboration between Turinese architect Benedetto Camerana and the botanist Cristiana Ruspa, La Pista 500 is a new public space and urban garden for Turin. It’s joined by Casa 500, a dedicated exhibition space within the Pinacoteca Agnelli, the Fiat family foundation housed in the Renzo Piano-designed structure built atop the Lingotto complex in 2003.

Casa 500 is dedicated to Fiat’s most celebrated model, the Fiat 500, both in its original 1957 incarnation and its hugely successful 20th century revival. Featuring original artwork, models and ephemera from the company’s collection, Casa 500 was designed by the Italian firm LAB71 Architetti, led by Massimiliano Gotti Porcinari.

Casa 500, an exhibition that celebrates of the Fiat 500, old and new
Casa 500, an exhibition space that celebrates of the Fiat 500, old and new

La Pista 500 is a linear park in the sky, enhancing the city’s biodiversity with 40,000 plants comprising of 300 species, housed in 28 island planters set within the factory’s original concrete test track. Giacomo Mattè Trucco (1869 –1934) originally conceived the Lingotto complex as a temple of manufacturing, a five-floor production line that eschewed the sprawling facilities of Fiat’s American counterparts in favour of a more vertical solution.

Components and raw materials went in on the ground floor and production snaked its way up towards the roof, complete with dramatic spiralling concrete ramps at each end of the 1.5 million sq m complex. On the summit was the company’s crowning glory, a test track with steep concrete banking. Over the next half century, some 80 models of Fiat were built here, including the original Topolino city car of the 1930s. 

Renzo Piano and Lingotto

La Pista 500, a new urban garden for Turin
La Pista 500, a new urban garden for Turin, set alongside the 1920s test track and Renzo Piano’s additions, including the Pinacoteca Agnelli (centre)

Piano and his team spent 20 years working on the renovation of the structure after the factory closed in 1982, transforming the former production lines into offices, two hotels, a conference centre, and retail space.

The transparent ‘bubble’ structure on the roof is the most obviously high-tech addition to the study of concrete modernism, counterbalanced by the exhibition space at the opposite end of the long, slender structure. 

Urban oasis for Turin

La Pista 500, a new urban garden for Turin
The new planting is juxtaposed with Renzo Piano’s high-tech additions from the turn of the century

The La Pista 500 celebrates this enduring structure, saved from industrial oblivion by Piano’s interventions. The 7,000 sq m of new planting runs the 1.2km length of the test track, which has been given a new lease of life as a place to drive electric only vehicles, including bikes and scooters.

The new vegetation has been designed to maximise biodiversity, avoiding the need for excessive water consumption, and there’s an education space, a kitchen garden, and even zones dedicated to contemplation and meditation. Stellantis, Fiat’s parent company, acknowledges that the transformation of a concrete factory into a verdant public space is a ‘deeply symbolic’ act, and hopes it’ll be seen as a physical representation of its ongoing sustainable ambitions. § 

Casa 500, an exhibition that celebrates of the Fiat 500, old and new
La Pista 500, a new urban garden for Turin
The Lingotto factory test track pictured in 1966
Archive image of the test track at the Lingotto factory
Fiat 500s take to Lingotto’s concrete ramps during an event in 2019

Archive image