On Tuesday morning, the Italian entrepreneur, who fought the Milanese fall gloomy weather by wearing an eye-catching yellow double-breasted suit with coordinated socks, unveiled the new, impressive 18,300-square-foot headquarters housing his customization service for cars, motorcycles, airplanes, helicopters and boats. The project was officially launched in March 2015.
At that time, Elkann acquired a historic former Agip station, located in Milan’s Piazzale Accursio and commissioned in 1952 by Enrico Mattei, the founder of the national Fuel Trust Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi. Originally designed by Mario Bacciocchi, who was inspired by the American Streamline style of the Thirties and focused on aerodynamic lines, the location was completely restored and renovated by architect Michele De Lucchi to house Garage Italia’s headquarters. The value of the building’s acquisition and the restructuring costs were not disclosed.
“This building is a symbol of the greatness of this country and today we are here to return it to its original splendor,” said Elkann, who first collaborated with De Lucchi on the creation of the Fiat Cafè at Milan’s Triennale museum in 2005. “I want to thank Milan, which is a city living a moment of incredible excitement and which is clearly showing how much this country has to give and offer to make the entire world dreaming about its beauty, creativity and excellence.”
In order to create a space “open to the city,” Garage Italia not only features areas dedicated to the customization services, such as the unique “Materioteca,” a space where clients can explore the different materials and fabrics to personalize their vehicles, but also includes a range of entertaining spaces.
In particular, Elkann teamed up with Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco who will manage both the bar at the entrance, which features a massive counter overlooked by a spectacular huge cloud of 1,100 model cars, and the restaurant located on the second floor. Installed into a trapezoidal room, it is dominated by a central cocktail space created by using the body of a Ferrari 250 GTO car. Leather sofas run around the perimeter of the room, where the small tables are matched with Cassina chairs decorated with graphics inspired by the world of car racing. An electric toy track with 22 Formula One mini models was also installed on the ceiling, which is embellished with lamps mimicking car mufflers.
In addition, a VIP area recalls the sophisticated interiors of a Riva Aquarama motorboat, which also inspired the high-end restrooms, where wood is combined with sinks and sanitary fittings in a chic copper tone.
“I created a menu which is deeply linked with Lapo’s memories. I reworked Enzo Ferrari’s favorite dish, the salad of the Lawyer [the nickname of Giovanni Agnelli, Lapo Elkann’s grandfather] the vegetables from the garden of Marella Agnelli [Lapo Elkann’s grandmother,],” said Cracco. “They are classic dishes which were used to be eaten by that big family and they embrace different regional traditions, from North to South.”
The dishes, which feature evocative names, such as Paris-Dakar and Bermuda Triangle, are listed on a creative menu reproducing the shape of a tachometer.
The building, which on the facade was embellished with two neon light lines referring to the Fifties’ original ones, also includes a terrace.
“There, I wanted to create a tropical environment with plants and furniture developed in collaboration with Unopiù because I want people who spend some time there to feel on vacation,” Elkann said, revealing that his decision to combine different influences in the venue, from the car world to the nautical theme, were inspired by a book of his great-grandfather titled “Fiat. Earth, Sea, Sky.”
“In a teeny tiny scale, I want to bring back that concept in the contemporary motion industry which is living a period of huge changes,” said Elkann, who aims to bring the Garage Italia project format to other countries around the world.
Inside the headquarters, which features a black concrete floor and navy blue walls juxtaposed to glass and iron structures inspired by traditional garages, visitors have also access to a professional driving simulator by Allinsports and have the chance to buy customized clothes, accessories and gadgets at the shop.
“Since we are conscious that the automotive industry is highly polluting and aiming to embrace a business approach which overcomes immediate results but is projected into the creation of value for the future,” Elkann highlighted that Garage Italia was built with measures that have a low impact on the environment.
For example, the entire building was painted with the special Airlite varnish, which in combination with sunlight is able to strongly reduce the presence of polluting substances in the air. In addition, photovoltaic panels provide the venue with power and the rooms are heated via geothermic processes.