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Architectural excellence: the Smeg head office on show in the Italian Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, from 29th August

At the 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale the Smeg head office in Guastalla, designed by the Architect Guido Canali, will be on show in the Italian Pavilion, a project in it’s own right which has been overseen by the Architect Luca Zevi.  

At the centre of the Internation Architecture exhibition is the Italian Pavillon, a collection of important Made-in-Italy advocates who have chosen to construct their workplaces with highly respectable architectural values, bringing to life structures that pay heed to the poetics of the territory in which they have been built, as well as the lives of the people in and around them, and to environmental sustainability.

The Smeg head office is a notable example of Made in Italy Architecture, it demonstrates the type of virtuous relationship that can exist between Industry, Architecture and Landscape. It is a modern reinterpretation of the old rural courts of the Po Valley, and is testimony to the care that was given by the company and the architect to respect the area in which the office has been built. For Smeg, the building is a way to further confirm the love and respect that the company has for its territory and the people who live and work there.

The Smeg head quarters office building is inscribed in a circle in the Guastalla countryside, set within a low embankment, just like those that line the river Po. To strengthen its bond with the landscape Smeg decided to use only a small percentage of the available building land granted by the local planning council, with visibly tangible results. The offices are organised into six separate wings that flow into one central gallery which anchors all of the parts together. The entrance walkway separates the embankment and wide green lawn from the moat, a large mirror of water upon which the conference room and appliance showroom are pleasantly reflected. Geometric decking covers the ground outside, and ivy is interwoven with care alongside other native plants and bamboo. On the inside, a glass channel in the roof floods the corridors with light. Trees and plants appear to physically enter the building, so that the structure itself seems to take on the characteristics of a living plant, its branches embracing the green spaces.

"The client has an important role in architecture – says Roberto Bertazzoni, President of Smeg S.p.A -. Here we are situated in the Duchy of Gonzaga, who, together with the Medici family, fostered and inspired the birth of the Italian Renaissance. This water, the riverbanks, the mist…they give emotion to everything. Our offices have this particular character because they are rooted in THIS very land, they are the fruit of endless talks with Guido [Canali], who was able to fully understand these emotions of mine. The relationship of the building with nature has always been an obsession for me. Ensuring that employees have a serene and pleasant place to work - a befitting office - contributes to improving the quality of life ".

In 2006 Architect Guido Canali was awarded an Honourable Mention from the “Medaglia d’Oro all’Architettura Italiana” (“Gold Medal for Italian Architecture”) at the Milan Triennale for the Smeg head office project.

From the late 70’s onwards, Guido Canali also applied his architectural principles also to the design of ovens, hobs, and dishwashers for Smeg.