Ivrea after the Unesco label - ISPLORA

Ivrea after the Unesco label


With the inscription of “Ivrea Industrial City of the 20th Century” on the List of the UNESCO World Heritage and the events connected to the 110th anniversary of Olivetti, the city of Ivrea faces a new perspective. 

2018 has certainly been a special year for Ivrea: in July, “Ivrea Industrial City of the 20th century” was inscribed on the List of the UNESCO World Heritage, while celebrating the 110 years of Olivetti, the company symbol of of the Piedmontese city, with events throughout the year.

Olivetti, Ivrea’s legacy recognized all over the world

In February the exhibition “Looking forward. Olivetti: 110 years of imagination”, open until June at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, covered the history of the design, innovation and communication traced by the Olivetti “community”.

In October instead “Olivetti Makes. Diseño, Industria y Sociedad. Mucho más que máquinas de escribir” opened to the public at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. The exhibition is divided into three sections: the first one is dedicated to the 110 years of Olivetti, the industrial and social project; the second one explores the role of Olivetti in Latin America. Finally, the third one narrates the important role of the Ivrea-based company during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. 

As of 2018 Ivrea is on the List of the UNESCO World Heritage: a recognition obtained thanks to Olivetti’s vision since 1930 

Olivetti has been constantly looking towards the future, both in terms of technology and experimentation on the urban fabric of Ivrea. A city – as stated previously – recently inscribed on the Unesco heritage list, the 54th Italian site, defined in the nomination report as a “model of modern industrial city which establishes itself as an alternative and high-quality answer, in structural and social terms, to the questions deriving from the rapid evolution of industrialization processes”. A laboratory to experiment policies and technological innovation, an urban project implemented between 1930 and 1960, first by Camillo, then by his son Adriano Olivetti. A political manifesto proposed by the Movimento Comunità founded in Ivrea in 1947 by Adriano, which entrusted the plant not only with a productive role, but also acknowledged it as a generator of widespread wealth and a place for exchange and social relations.

Not merely typewriters, but many inventions and products put on the market by the Ivrea company, from mechanical calculators to the first models of personal computers. That is why in the 60’s, under the aegis of Adriano Olivetti, the company experienced its greatest expansion in international markets.

Not only industrial products, but cult objects, unique designer pieces, like the Lettera 22 (on display at MoMa in New York) or the Divisumma 14, both designed by Marcello Nizzoli, or the Valentine Typewriter by Ettore Sottsass junior.

Ivrea, thanks to Olivetti, still presents today a catalog of buildings which represent the design culture of the 20th century

A broad vision which after the end of World War II up to the ‘70s resulted in an industrial city built along the axis of Corso Jervis. That is where production buildings, residential units and service buildings rose. A catalog which represent the design culture of the 20th century, an answer to the questions deriving from urban growth and industrialization. A plurality of shapes and languages interpreted by the most important architects of that time: from Figini and Pollini’s Officine I.C.O., to Nizzoli and Olivieri’s residences, moving through the Unità Residenziale Ovest (Talponia) by Gabetti and Isola, up to the new office building by Gino Valle. A long journey, often challenging, especially because of the many economic difficulties of the past decades, the inability as of the ‘90s to stay competitive in the market and the vicissitudes of the company which left a burdensome legacy and a faded patina.

A deterioration process which seems to have also affected the city’s nomination to Unesco, which certainly represents a crucial step in the acknowledgment of the architectural and cultural legacy of Olivetti and Ivrea, and should at the same time be an occasion for development and involvement. To this day, a process of sharing with the citizens, an articulated program for safeguarding and a broad project of urban governance still have to be conceived or at least rethought, in order to keep on “turning dreams into solutions”.  

Link Unesco nomination “Ivrea Industrial City of the 22th Century”


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