What did you want to be when you were a child? For me, it was an architect and I have a real fascination with their work. So I was delighted to attend the launch of S.Pellegrino Flagship Factory, the starred international architecture competition.
S.Pellegrino is world famous for its water and soft drinks and its factory is in the beautiful Val Brembana area of Lombardy in Italy. I’ve got to know them well over the last few years, experiencing a star studded Cannes Film Festival and their Young Chef of the Year UK & Ireland Final.
Arriving in Bergamo, I was struck by the city’s own architecture. Lombardy’s second town has an interesting mix of Art Nouveau buildings in the new town and 16th century gems in the Upper Town or Città Alta. The latter is currently being considered for the UNESCO World Heritage List.
That afternoon we headed to QC Terme San Pellegrino, located where else but in the town of San Pellegrino. The mineral water originates from a nearby spring and its health benefits are legendary – even Leonardo da Vinci came to the town in 1509 to sample it. Bottling started in 1899 and carbonation was introduced in order to maintain consistency when shipping, giving its distinctive taste. The spa itself opened in 1901 and the Grand Hotel and Casino followed soon after in 1906. These days there is no hotel, but the spa is one of the best that I have visited.
It’s run by QC Terme, the leading luxury Italian spa and resort company. They have some amazing spas in Italy and one about to open in Chamonix, France as well as one on Governor Island in New York. This particular one combines Art Nouveau style with contemporary architecture. The views over the mountains from the outdoor pools, hot tub and fire pit are spectacular. I liked the quirkiness of the sauna cinema and the VIP changing rooms, otherwise known as the Very Important Bathrobers. We enjoyed an invigorating massage before trying out the salt room.
In the evening we sampled the delicious cuisine at Lio Pellegrini in Bergamo. Seated in the pretty garden, we enjoyed linguine, whole prawns and a refreshing ice cream dessert.
The next day, we headed to the S.Pellegrino factory for an insightful tour. There’s an interesting gallery presenting the history of the brand. It’s internationally recognisable due to several features – the famous red star, the San Pellegrino Terme building on the top label, the green bottle and the watermark – pretty impressive for packaging first created in 1899!
Next we transferred to the historic San Pellegrino Terme Casino Theatre for the presentation of the 4 projects for the new S.Pellegrino Flagship Factory. This Belle Epoque masterpiece adjacent to the spa was designed by architect Romolo Squadrelli and features huge marble columns and an impressive staircase.
S.Pellegrino aim to create a flagship factory for their staff, as people are at the centre of everything they do. They have a Nestle flagship store in Milan. They want to show how important water is to the planet and there’ll also be an experiential lab.They identified 4 major international architectural groups to tender for the project. The first presentation was by Michele De Lucchi of aMDL from Milan. Specialists in interior design as well as architecture, they created the permanent Central Pavilion Milan Expo 2015. Their S.Pellegrino project is entitled ‘to be’ – to focus on everyone and to safeguard our environment. An interesting element is that trucks will enter via a green bridge and no longer via the village. The public entrance would be via a greenhouse, giving direct access to the Experience Lab and Water Theatre.
The second presentation was by MVRDV from the Netherlands who are well known for the Market Hall in Rotterdam. They have taken inspiration from one of the most iconic S.Pellegrino features, calling their project Follow The Star, and creating a star-shaped Experience Lab, with a water mirror or waterfall incorporated into the star design. At night, the building would have a lantern effect.
The third presentation was by Thomas from BIG, based in Copenhagen and New York and building the new Google Campus and the Lego House. They looked at the surrounding area’s attractions and noticed that the current factory view is blocked by walls so they took inspiration from the local arched bridges and loggias to bring back belvederes and balconies. They envisage a core central artwork depicting water trickling down and suggest collaborating with a water artist like Olafur Eliasson.
Finally, we heard from Snøhetta who designed the fabulous Oslo Opera House. They believe that the landscape and water should be the stars and have opted for a deliberately subtle effect so that the building blends in with the environment. Their main focus will be on the 30 year journey of rain falling on the mountains to the source itself.
All of the projects had their plus points but there was one that really stood out for me in terms of practicality, creativity and consideration for the local environment. In the interests of neutrality, I’ll wait until the winner is revealed at the end of September before letting you know which it is! It got me thinking though, what my own S.Pellegrino Flagship Factory design would be with no budgetary or practical constraints. I’d create a glass bottle lying on its side and at night it would project images of stars and the original casino logo.
What would you design if you had the opportunity? What was your dream job when you were a child?