Bringing together a vision of past and future Arese’s “Il Centro” shopping mall is the largest shopping mall in Italy and one of the largest in Europe at over 92,000 m2. Inspired by the multiple courtyard system of ancient Lombard farmsteads Il Centro is designed around a central theme of bio-sustainability and has transformed the original historic Alfa Romeo plant site.
Equally innovative and imposing, the architectural conversion job showcases large, open, airy spaces and transparent surfaces creating a bright, light space and natural materials, like wood and glass and this is evident in the development of the Iper Montebello, the supermarket at the heart of Il Centro.
Director Marco Ruzza has described the store as the result of a quest to find new ways to promote Italy’s most successful traditional speciality products and, at the same time, an attempt to simplify shopping, making it an informed, shared experience that leads shoppers to discover an extraordinary world of flavours.
It’s a concept whose layout hinges on a system of themed islands where you get to choose and purchase food but also watch how it is prepared. There are no ledges or shelves piled up to the ceiling, limiting access to goods or getting in the way of your line of sight, everything is open and transparent, supporting the engagement between clients and staff, who are always on hand to describe the products, their features and how to use them, is direct.
This has been carried into the stores major customised retail fitting, with Arneg asked to collaborate with designers to reinterpret the mass retail space and design an innovative bespoke solution. Customised detailing and top quality materials, including the use of special finishes were created in line with the build philosophy. This philosophy played out in the use of horizontal architectural features, open display units based on the idea of market stalls, low structures (maximum height 2.05 m) for optimum access and visibility and emphasising a natural element, using materials like wood and glass to bring in lightness, vitality and a continuity with the outside environment.
The bio-sustainability brief wasn’t just superficial with the mechanical engineering solutions focused on supporting environmentally sustainable outcomes. The supermarket is one of the first stores in Italy to have adopted cutting edge solutions that eliminate use of HFCs, using only carbon dioxide and reducing global warming impacts. The use of intermediate compression and multiple ejector technology also reduces electricity consumption, compared to the current R404A or R134a systems. The sustained design effort that went into manufacturing Arneg’s CO2 refrigeration system for the site has created a pioneering benchmark for future developments.
Within the retail store format a significant emphasis in the brief was on displaying fresh produce in key positions with engagement of customers in the selection and purchasing of food supporting the market feel.
Starting with the meat section where a superb display enhances the quality of cuts, the GLASGOW serve-over counter has a luxurious marble finish in an homage to traditional butcher’s counters. Customised COLD ROOMS, where sides of beef are hung and matured, are completely open for viewing with glass sides showing off a scenic backdrop created with Himalayan pink rock salt. It’s an incredible sight completed by a CIRCULAR CUTTING BLOCK, surrounded by a glass guard, which sits in the central area, and becomes the focus of a specialty food itinerary. Here meat is sectioned and prepared by professionals as customers look on. The chicken section is enhanced by clever use of lighting and transparent materials, and the presence of cabinets like the BELGRADO 2, a new generation serve-over counter designed for ultimate product visibility from wherever you are looking. Another version of the BELGRADO (2H150) cabinet is found, along with the BERLINO TOTEM, in the fish section, a large space dedicated to promoting seafood and its preparation.
The wealth of products in the cold meat and cheese section gives an idea of the immense variety offered and Italy’s gastronomic heritage that is one of a kind in the world. A triumph of forms and colours it is enhanced by the ample space in the OSAKA 3 and PANAMA 3 cabinets that combine contemporary design with high, environmentally sustainable performance. The special design of this section boasts a micro cheese-making area which can produce up to twelve types of cheese. The horizontal, easily accessed open display table design logic also features strongly in the fresh deli counter area – where you can find the small, yet spacious and versatile SENDAI refrigerated counter – in the frozen section with the TORONTO G4 and ASTANA models, and in the “fresh packaged goods” section with the VELDEN semi-vertical cabinet designed for promotional sales. To ensure maximum flexibility, all counters in the store can either be ring circuit water-cooled or air-cooled, which means that they can be moved for special events during the year and then returned to their usual position.
Davide Padoa says, “With this development, we have transformed the old Alfa Romeo from a car factory into a factory that creates experience”.
A brand new character, in line with a new generation of consumers and the latest trends in the food market.