Impressive Pitstop

With the world’s largest Porsche Experience Center in Italy, GBPA Architects and Pedrali are showing custom-fit solutions in architecture and design of a kind that transforms every stop into an experience.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 2/25/2022

The Franciacorta region in Lombardy is located not far from the city of Brescia and Lake Iseo. The region not only serves up excellent wine and hearty dishes – its motor-racing track has also been hosting motorsport since 2008, as well as attracting international guests. At the end of last year, the Porsche Experience Center was built on grounds of no less than 559,000 sqm, a size making them the largest of their kind in the world. GBPA Architects was commissioned to restructure the grounds and to construct a center at the heart of them that would give visitors of all ages the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of Porsche and feel its vitality. The construction period was also pretty fast-moving at just under two years – an impressive performance in view of the holistic redesign for the site. “It was a truly challenging project, a masterplan that included every aspect of the extensive grounds on which the Porsche Experience Center was built,” reports Federica De Leva, a partner at GBPA Architects.

The initially plan had been to completely rip down the existing building but, after the architects had inspected the site, they decided that it would be better to make use of the indoor go-kart track with its arched roof. “We found the go-kart track interesting because it features a very special sinuous shape. We took the existing building as the basis for reusing the existing infrastructure as far as possible,” explains De Leva. This approach also fitted in with Porsche’s desire to make the project as sustainable as possible. Accordingly, all the materials utilized were manufactured in line with the cradle-to-cradle principle, making for a consistent circular economy. Moreover, the site runs on renewable energy sources and provides charging stations for electric cars. “The PEC Franciacorta combines many of the things that make Porsche special: the racing atmosphere, a unique design with iconic architecture, and a brand experience venue for our global fan community,” comments Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board at Porsche.

The façade of the 5,600-sqm customer service center is completely clad in glass, with the exception of the arched supporting structure. It houses not only the business center and the training rooms but also a panorama restaurant with a cafeteria and a simulation laboratory with augmented reality options. All the paths converge at the “agora”, the center, which serves as a meeting point and tempts visitors to linger. Thanks to its glass façade and its refined appearance the building has an open, inviting feel, despite its sheer size, and, in formal terms, represents a harmonious transition to the nearby “handling course”. The Experience Center’s interior design also conveys a pleasant sense of excitement. “Each of the rooms has very different functions and we have designed them all to reflect this – from the minimalistic lines and cool colors of the business area to the restaurant, the design of which echoes the atmosphere of the nearby vineyards,” explains De Leva.

Standing Start

For the furnishings, the architects opted for products by Italy’s Pedrali with its long-standing tradition. “Pedrali offers a wide choice of designs, fantastic quality, and a pleasant range of shades,” explains De Leva. The fact that Pedrali’s head office is in Mornico al Serio, which is in the direct vicinity of the Porsche Experience Center, meant that haulage distances and communication lines were short. Going into the details, for the Speedster restaurant the chairs chosen were “Vic” by Patrick Norguet with their covers in gray and mustard tones inspired by the classic armchairs of the 1950s. After visitors have settled down on the latter to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view of the racetrack, they can have the cold or hot beverage of their choice served to their tables from the “Arki-Base” collection. The tables’ three tubular steel legs taper up to the center of the top, reminiscent of the trestles in blacksmith’s shops. In the Targa-Bar next door, “Nemea” chairs by CMP Design make their grand appearance. Their classic lines have a Scandinavian look, they are made of ash and aluminum. They go well with the straight lines of the “Babila” barstool by Odo Fioravanti, with its conical ash wood legs.

Visitors can get even closer to the track’s intoxicating speed on the Porsche Experience Center’s panoramic terrace. With its generous dimensions and comfortable upholstery, the three-seater sofa “Reva” by Patrick Jouin represents the perfect place from which to follow the racing cars’ overtaking maneuvers from front-row seats. Something else that is unusual is the shape of the beige “Remind” armchairs by Eugeni Quitllet with their soft, curved shape. They are made of polypropylene and are reminiscent of the aesthetically pleasing contours of wooden chairs dating from the second half of the 19th century. At their sides stand the elegant “Elliot” tables by Patrick Jouin, their slender central columns made of extruded aluminum that then flare into four legs made of diecast aluminum.

For the Business Center, which can also be rented out by other companies as an events location, GBPA Architects decided on “Tweet”, a stacking chair by Mark Sadler whose design can be customized with a wide range of frames and surfaces. With the tilting “Ypsilon” aluminum tables by Jorge Pensi Design Studio the tabletop can simply be tilted until it is vertical and folded flat to one side when not in use. The “Arki” table, by contrast, makes a clear statement where it stands with its easel legs made of solid oak and its rectilinear tabletop. Business partners are bound to feel comfortable on the “Elinor” executive armchair which Claudio Bellini has not only given generous upholstery but has also equipped with a weight-regulating synchro-mechanism. This keeps the seated user’s back permanently in a comfortable position, even at lengthy meetings. “The wide range of Pedrali furniture has allowed us to ideally meet all possible requirements at the Porsche Experience Center” comments Federica De Leva.