Aiazzone Guided Tour
project by Fratelli Fortuna
(Beatrice Catanzaro, Matteo Ferrario, Margarita Vazquez Ponte)
Download an MP3 sample of the audioguide (1.18 Mb)

The F.lli Fortuna group has been investigating strategies to reactivate empty and abandoned spaces. The research focused on the appropriation of these sites by a local transient population who have subsequently utilised the structures. Moreover, on the transition of a space from functional to discarded, and its subsequent morphing towards a more subterranean existence.
One of the chosen sites was the vast Aiazzone complex, which lies south of Biella in part of the town’s industrial outskirts. The internal structure alone occupies approximately 50000 square meters but was never completed due to the sudden death of Giorgio Aiazzone.
The building mirrors the optimism and ambition of the economic boom that was so prevalent during the 1980’s and still survives, defiant, despite various plans to raise it to the ground and build something of a less daunting scale in its place.
This intervention consisted of the reconstruction of the events that happened since the site was abandoned in the form of a narrative (part fact, part fiction). An audio-guided tour through the building was structured, based on layers of narrative from the discarded site. The audience was introduced to a shifting from a physical exploration of the building into a pseudo historical and poetical experience.

Introducing Aiazzone.

The vast Aiazzone complex lies south of Biella, in part of the town’s industrial outskirts. Situated on Trossi St, it was built between 1986-87. Constructed during the Biella’s second phase of industrial development (the first being the textile companies situated by the river) the industrial landscape then moved to the other side of town to be near the Milan – Turin motorway.

The building mirrors the optimism and ambition of the economic boom that was so prevalent during the 1980’s. Giorgio Aiazzone, who came from a family of furniture vendors, founded Aiazzone. The building was the dream of a man who had the foresight to harness the media and advertising in particular, elevating a small family concern into something far more in keeping with the spirit of the age, and on a grand scale.

While his competitors sought to build their commercial palaces in main cities and areas of intense urban populations, Aiazzone chose instead to build a giant complex, Citta’ del Mobile (City of Furniture) on the outskirts of the relatively modest northern Italian town of Biella. Aiazzone was quoted as saying “if you want to see the Pope, you have to go to Rome” The internal structure alone occupies approximately 50 000 square meters, parking another 100 000, and all at a cost of 20 billion lira (around 10 million euros at that time). Aizzone built on such a grand scale as a deliberate strategic operation. He saw the building and its immense dimensions as an attraction in its own right, a wonder, if you will. He also had plans to develop a local television station for the north of Italy with the aim to immerse his company directly into the media itself. Moreover, already involved in local television he embraced the modern notion of reaching his potential audience/customers through advertising and info-mercials. He also rejected the conventional belief of the age that the actual close proximity of a store to areas of dense population was the best way to attract customers.

Sunday 6 July 1986, Aizzone dies suddenly in a plane crash at the age of 39, his utopian dream incomplete only a few months away from completion. Building continued for a few months, but without the drive and vision of Citta’ del Mobile’s chief protagonist, the building was never completed.

Subsequently there have been several abortive attempts to breath life into the old Aiazzone site, but it seems to have been dogged by bad luck from the start. The building still survives, defiant, despite various plans to raise it to the ground, and build something of a less daunting scale in its place.

Aiazzone often was quoted bemoaning his unpopularity within the Biellese community and business elite, and yet now, ironically, in the rest of Italy, his name has become synonymous with the town itself.

The geography of the building: Rooms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6

Città del Mobile can be broken down into six sections.
The three frontal rooms (1, 2 and 3) inter-connect and face the main road forming a vast show room 260 meters or 352 paces long. These are the least occupied of all the spaces within the complex. The structure is punctuated with concrete pillars and bales of insulating material waiting to be installed, but left lying since 1986 when construction was abandoned.

To the rear we have three more vast units. Number 4, recognisable instantly by the pungent aroma that greets anyone who enters, was used by local farmers to house a large herd of sheep. The floor is covered in a layer of dry animal excrement, and some bedding still exists amongst two abandoned motorbikes at the entrance. It has also been used for motorcycle racing in the past. Tyre tracks from recent activity can still be seen on the floor.

Number 5 houses a caravan, which lies on its side, papers were found inside showing it to be the property of Giorgio Aiazzone. This room seems to be the most occupied of all the spaces and has the most human presence. A diverse variety of human traces lie scattered on the floor. X-rays and medical records, motorcycle paraphernalia and destroyed paintings are just some of the objects that lie here.

Number 6 is the most orchestral of all the spaces. The structure here seems to be in a constant dialogue with itself. Flocks of black crows often alight and spend time on the Aiazzone roof, their constant patterns of landing and taking off create a composition of sound that reverberates through space and is heightened by cacophonous acoustics that can only be found in a building of this scale. This also seems to have been the commercial heart of the site, with numerous traces of official papers, catalogues and business ephemera.

The six sections are surrounded by a road and courtyards, which are also strewn with the same diverse and abandoned human remains that lie within the internal structure. It is interesting to note that Città del Mobile has a constantly changing geography, objects come and go, and move around from one visit to another.


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