First Look at the Exciting S.Pellegrino Flagship Factory Competition

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.

qc_terme_spaIt’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.

san_pellegrino_spa_reviewIn 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.

bergamo_restaurantThe 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!

san_pellegrino_factoryNext 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.

san_pellegrino_termeThe S.Pellegrino Flagship Factory will be designed for all the 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.

s-pellegrino_flagship_factoryThe 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.

s-pellegrino_flagship_factory1The 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.

s-pellegrino_flagship_factory3Finally, 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.

s-pellegrino_flagship_factory4All 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 for the S.Pellegrino Flagship Factory if you had the opportunity? What was your dream job when you were a child?


  • The view from the spa is stunning!

  • Wow what a wonderful experience! Gemma x

  • Aman garcia sanchez

    Buenos días. Que pasada de fotos. Eres increíble combinando. Un besito y te invito a pasarte por mi blog.
    Las siete maravillas de Amanda.

  • Gary J Berry

    This sounds like such an interesting trip and the spa! I’m in love!

  • SO pretty! And a spa sounds lovely. 🙂

    Le Stylo Rouge

  • A star-projecting glass bottle on its side sounds interesting Suze, what a lovely thought. This looks to have been a great opportunity to immerse yourself in discussion of architecture – and in Bergamo no less, perfect 🙂 I stayed a couple of nights there about five years ago, and haven’t been able to get the place out of my head ever since!

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice x

    • I can see why you liked Bergamo so much, I’d love to go back and have longer in the Upper Town which we visited at night

  • What a unique trip and I love hearing about new towns in Italy….I don’t think I know anyone that’s visited Bergamo before and from your photos Suze it looks incredibly picturesque and quaint!

    • I’d be tempted to do a whole post on Bergamo but I didn’t see the Upper Town during the day, it did look picturesque from afar though!

  • I think you would have made a wonderful architect but I sure am glad you became a writer!;-) Haha, I wanted to be an FBI agent and solve mysteries…I guess that explains my love for those TV shows and movies!;-)

    ps beautiful photos!!!

    • Being an FBI agent would be really fascinating. Some architects that I know told me that they end up having to design quite boring buildings for budgetary reasons so I’m quite happy to be a writer!

  • alice

    Oh wow, so cool!!

    Alice Cerea

  • I wanted to be an air stewardess when I was a child and was accepted into Singapore Airlines but my family was against it so I decided to pursue what they wanted me to do instead. Unfortunately I was never good at what they wanted me to do and I dropped out in the end.

    If I could design something? I would love to design our future home which my husband, MIL and I are currently in discussion in. 🙂

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

    • Ooh how exciting about designing your future home, Shireen! You’ll be able to get it just the way you want it. And the airlines’ loss is our gain!

  • Hayley Rubery

    Suze this trip sounds/looks incredible! Your pictures are stunning as always – how dreamy is that spa?!

    Hayley xo

  • Beautiful shots..the architecture there is really nice! How cool to be able to tour the factory!

    • It was so interesting as you can’t normally tour the factory – although with the new design people will be able to see what’s going on inside