Cult Rooms In the foothills of the Alps, socialism, modernism and manufacturing came together in IVREA, Olivetti's remarkable “company town.”

Cult Rooms In the foothills of the Alps, socialism, modernism and manufacturing came together in IVREA, Olivetti's remarkable “company town.”

Issue 42

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Arts & Culture

  • Words George Upton
  • Photograph Nick Ballón

For three decades, a small Italian town in the foothills of the Alps was the center for radical new ideas around industry and community. Ivrea, some 30 miles north of Turin, had been the headquarters of typewriter manufacturer Olivetti since the company was founded by Camillo Olivetti in 1908. Between 1933 and the late 1950s, under the dynamic new leadership of Camillo’s son Adriano, the town was transformed into an experimental utopia, promising a humanized approach to the organization of labor.

Adriano believed passionately in the social responsibility of industry: Olivetti employees enjoyed benefits that were unparalleled in Italy, including flexible working hours, free childcare and access to affordable housing. A socialist with an interest in urban planning, Adriano expanded his ...

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