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18 febbraio 2020

Vincenzo Borgomeo

Still today, seen from outside the front gate, the historic Maranello headquarters resemble a typical farmstead building in Emilia-Romagna. That’s how Enzo Ferrari was obliged to build it during the Second World War, owing to the limited resources available at the time. A hi-tech factory, featuring cutting edge architecture, has since grown up within it. But even to this day all new Ferrari cars pass through that historic entrance from which the legendary 125 S first emerged in 1947

There’s something magical about passing the gates at Via Abetone Inferiore 4 in Maranello: the Ferrari factory, the historic home to the brand, the icon itself – to this day – of the Prancing Horse, with a long, low, ochre-yellow building and brick-red-plastered entranceway. It’s halfway between a great Po-valley farmhouse and English-style workshop, with an even more rustic feel owing to its location amid vine rows and orchards. From the outside, it’s hard to imagine that race cars and the world’s most sought-after supercars emerge from these historic premises, given their appearance.

But this contrast is exactly what gives the Ferrari entrance its magic: the gate appears more like a Stargate, a space-time portal, than a security system to keep curious onlookers away. But this isn’t a fantasy/adventure narrative device, because what you see at Via Abetone Inferiore 4 is what you get: a historic farm entrance. But beyond the gate you enter the world’s most hi-tech factory.

This all has a thoroughly historical explanation. After the war, it was on this very road that the Ferrari factory occupied a Fondo Cavani plot property of approximately 17,000 square metres. Historical documents show that the mayor of Maranello granted Enzo Ferrari permission to purchase and renovate a "large metal shed" for Auto Avio Costruzioni – Scuderia Ferrari on 4 December, 1942.

In fact, the renovation consisted merely of dismantling the iron structures that were to have been given over to the nation at war and rebuilding, with an explicit prohibition on using reinforced concrete and iron. This is why Enzo Ferrari adopted ancient building techniques like brick walls and timber roof trusses. This method naturally determined the form of the building itself and its peculiar architecture, with an irregular courtyard, with long brick wings, made of ochre-yellow-plastered bricks, and double-pitched roofs.

That’s the soul of Ferrari. Old Emilia-Romagna in appearance, hi-tech at heart. This is exactly the character that has been respected and offered anew when various updates have been made over the years, from the wind tunnel to the GES, Gestione Sportiva, as well as the Product Development Centre. Because as in all farms, the various areas (accommodation, barns, sheds, stables, etc.) are all connected by courtyards, out in the open, with complete visibility for activity within the structure. Ferrari’s courtyards were once the only connection between the company’s various structures and showed off all the work that the company carried out, like a farm. And the soul of the farmstead has been kept safe to this day.

Nor is it a coincidence that paths still run through Ferrari’s buildings today, connecting both horizontally and vertically the various areas to facilitate the continuous exchange of information between the interdepartmental project teams and permit monitoring of all stages in the product cycle at first hand. This is a charming, striking and magical structure, also in terms of its outer appearance, because the large facades, which don’t provide separation but transparency, completely encompass the building, making working life visible to the world of the surrounding factory. They remind us that a superior tech product always results from the unbroken collaboration of all systems that contribute to its conception and production.

But there’s a detail which alone is worth more than a thousand speeches in getting across the continuity of image and strategy: all Ferraris, from the first 125 S to the Roma, came out from the brick entrance at Via Abetone Inferiore 4, witnessing to a spectacular, historic image from the time. In 1947, the 125 S emerged from Ferrari like a chick from its nest. And the brand was to cover a huge amount of ground when it began to fly...

18 febbraio, 2020