Futurists Gone Wild: The Fiat rooftop test track

5 October 2006 at 4:32 pm

It’s one of those pieces of cultural knowledge that I could kick myself for not knowing already (there’s a lot: case in point, I hadn’t seen Rebel Without A Cause until a couple months ago), especially since it’s on top of the intersection of three lines of CKB-bait: machine age art movements, architecture, and automobiles.

In 1921 the Fiat company built a new factory in Lingotto, Turin, and to maintain compatibility with the proper Italian-futurist manifestos of the time, a test track was built on the roof…

Fiat Works test track

(photo from the New York Times Archive obviously)

Raw materials for cars would enter on the first floor with the assembly line continuing upwards in a spiral until the finished Fiats exited on the roof where the test track was. Reminds me of Steve Jobs’ dream factory: a beachfront site that would process the sand into silicon and output fully-formed PCs at the other end.

After reading about the factory in Banham’s Theory And Design In The First Machine Age, I concluded that there was just no way something so awesomely absurd could still exist. Bzzt! The Lingotto factory is still around and was repurposed into a conference and sports center complete with a swank hotel. (Google map link)