By  on February 2, 2006

Turin's most forward thinkers — a group of enlightened young entrepreneurs, artists and politicians — are working to shake the city's dusty image.

Through the Olympics, they want to send a message around the globe that Turin is as culturally vibrant as any other Italian site, a hub of contemporary art, attractive to tourists, with its combination of Roman, Baroque, and 19th and 20th century architecture.

"Turin's image is directly connected to car manufacturing [it's the long-time headquarters of Fiat] and blue collars, but this no longer reflects a much more complex and humming reality," said Licia Mattioli, a jewelry designer and one of the Olympics' "ambassadors" charged with the task of promoting the area's entrepreneurial and creative activity.

After all, Turin was Italy's first state capital in the late 1800s, a political and cultural point of reference in Europe. This is the city in which 20th century Arte Povera artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giovanni Anselmo and Mario and Marisa Merz chose to live and work, and a sort of Italian Hollywood that launched the history of Italian cinematography.

It hosts one of the most important Egyptian museums in the world, which was doubled in size for the Olympics, and the National Mountain Museum, dedicated to the mountain environment, entirely restored for the occasion. Its iconic monument, the 19th century Mole Antonelliana, which stands 551 feet high, is Europe's tallest brick building with a unique structural design.

As a result of the Olympics, recent investment in the area has increased by 3 billion euros, or $3.6 billion, and by a total of around 7.5 billion euros, or $9 billion, over the past eight years, which Turin put to good use, restoring museums and buildings, creating a much-desired subway, underground parking spaces, moving the railway line that used to cut the city in half under ground, and generally improving traffic flow.

"The Olympics are a starting point, not the arrival for us," said Paolo Verri, director of Torino Internazionale and the Olympics' Strategic Plan. "Our city has paid the price of an identity crisis, but our ambition is to be considered once again an international city, to attract students from all over the world and become a tourist city, no longer only a business city.""This is a great opportunity for us and the Olympics will finally help us be known around the world," said Patrizia Sandretto, founder of Fondazione Sandretto Re Baudengo, one of the city's main museums dedicated to contemporary art, along with Castello di Rivoli's museum and GAM, the city's gallery of modern and contemporary art.

In honor of the Olympics, for the first time the three museums have joined forces to create T-Turin Triennial Three, Italy's new festival of international contemporary visual art. As part of the event, 75 young international artists are presenting their experimental work in seven different museums spaced around the city and there are also solo shows of two midcareer artists: Takashi Murakami and Doris Salcedo.

A group of some of the world's best architects helped fast-forward the look of the city, adding supermodern designs and state-of-the-art facilities. The city has worked with architects including Gae Aulenti for the restoration of the Palavela, which will host short-track and figure skating; with Arata Isozaki for the new Palahockey, dubbed "PalaIsozaki," and with Frank Gehry and Steven Holl, among others, for the new THP, the city's Turin Health Park.

In addition, architect Massimilano Fuksas helped develop regional office buildings, Sergio Pininfarina designed the aerodynamic Olympic torch, Benedetto Camerana created the red steel arch that is expected to become the city's new symbol and Renzo Piano restored Fiat's former manufacturing building, Lingotto, into a multifunctional center that includes an auditorium, offices, shops, movie theaters and the Scrigno, a suspended structure hosting the Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Painting Gallery.

In order to lodge the International Olympics Committee, Piano designed two hotels under the Meridien banner, with a tropical garden and high-tech, innovative design.

"Turin will continue to benefit from the Olympics-related improvements and facilities in the long term," said Verri.

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