A curated program of exhibitions and events has turned the archaeological complex of Italian industry that is OGR Turin into a reference hub for culture and technological research
Some places have a second life. Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR) in Turin has three. The officine are within an industrial complex built in the late nineteenth century as a place for the maintenance of locomotives and railway wagons: this was its first life. After its closure in the early 1990s, the site was abandoned for years and was destined for demolition. In 2013, the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Torino bought the building to transform it into a large exhibition space and prevent it from being demolished.
The nineteenth-century industrial architecture in bricks with trusses and iron pillars was fully renovated and inaugurated in 2017. The structure has an H-shaped plan, which extends for about 20 thousand square meters and has a height of over sixteen meters. «For exhibitors at OGR it is a challenge to adapt their work in such a wide and far-off dimension of the classic museum», explains Visual Arts Curator Samuele Piazza. «For us, this is the opportunity to work on site-specific projects, which arise every time in response to the place, its history, its conformation, its possibilities, and its limits». The aim of the CRT Foundation was to create a center of innovation and experimentation in the artistic and technological field.
Following this mission, in June 2019, the OGR Tech was inaugurated, a hub dedicated to technology focused on artificial intelligence and block chain. A 200-metre boulevard defines the central nave of the OGR Tech, illuminated by the windows of the roof. On the sides, there are two aisles with some meeting rooms and open space offices on two floors with five hundred workstations. At the Officine, not only start-ups, but also national and international companies, investors and the Politecnico di Torino collaborate. The space dedicated to technology completes the project of the new OGR, which includes the Taste area, dedicated to food and catering, and the Cult area, where art exhibitions, concerts and live shows take place.
The fusion of visual and performing arts is one of the main characteristics of the evolution of museums and cultural sites, in recent years. OGR Cult follows this inclination by looking at those institutions that have worked on multidisciplinary and the hybridization of languages. Samuele Piazza gives some examples: «I can mention the Barbican Center in London, a complex that hosts concerts of classical and contemporary music, theatrical performances, exhibitions, and cinemas, or the Tramway in Glasgow, a center of visual and performing arts based in a former tram depot».
In 2019, four exhibitions were hosted at the Officine, all designed for the OGR spaces. ‘In Concert‘, a solo exhibition by the artist and composer Ari Benjamin Meyers; ‘Carousel‘ an installation and performance conceived by the Argentine-born English artist Pablo Bronstein; ‘History as Landscape’ by the Brazilian photographer Mauro Restiffe and the exhibition by Monica Bonvicini ‘As walls keep shifting’. Under the steel trusses of the OGR were also hosted concerts, such as the American alternative rock band Pixies and the British singer-songwriter Tom Walker.
The current situation of OGR is different from what other Italian cultural institutions are undergoing. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a hospital that can accommodate up to one hundred patients in sub intensive care has been set up: this is the third life of the Officine. «It was a response to the desire of realizing open spaces available to the community, but, as you can imagine, this slowed down the times of reopening,» says Mungo.
Since mid-May, the OGR tech spaces opened again, following current regulations, with the project to reopen the OGR Cult, as soon as the health emergency will be over. This pandemic has blocked the exhibition of Trevor Paglen, an artist who combines the creation of images, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, and engineering, already set up in the spaces of OGR, but which has not been inaugurated. ‘Dancing is what we make of fallin’, a series of performance and video screening events that was interrupted with the lockdown. Meanwhile, works continue for Jessika Stockholder, initially scheduled for June and ready to open as soon as possible.
Corso Castelfidardo, 22