For everyone in Turin, the fascinating complex of buildings on the hills that have had a breath-taking view over the city since the 1920s is simply Villa Gualino. Strangely enough, Turin has almost forgotten who Riccardo Gualino, an eclectic entrepreneur and patron, was. But it was precisely in Villa Gualino that a new chapter in the history of Torino Design, the automotive design centre founded in 2005 by Roberto Piatti, began in October 2019.

15 years of activity and 250 projects completed

“After almost 15 years of the company and 250 projects completed, we had to decide how to continue our growth,” says the CEO in his studio surrounded by greenery. “The primary goal of a start-up is to consolidate itself and build a reputation with its customers. This is what we did, until we found ourselves increasingly often in competition with the biggest international style centres”, continues Piatti who today, together with his partner and design manager Giuliano Biasio, leads a team of 70 highly qualified people.

The territory link

To grow, including physically, we needed new premises: “It had to say something about our bond with the local area, since we are called Torino Design. We have always interacted with the institutions and the Piedmont Region proposed this part of Villa Gualino, which we now have under concession for 30 years”. As soon as the renovation work began on an area of 3000 m2 on three floors plus outdoor spaces, Piatti wanted to get to know more about Riccardo Gualino: Today he would make Elon Musk jealous. Getting to know his biography was a stimulus; we felt charged with the desire to carry on that spirit of innovation”.

High skills and specialized suppliers

The idea of Piatti, former general manager of Stile Bertone (before that he had worked at Franco Mantegazza’s I.De.A. Institute) was to build a team with great know-how within the company and to use the network of specialised suppliers in the Turin area for the construction of physical models and prototypes, always under the supervision of the Torino Design technicians. It’s a formula that has proved to be a winner, as the numbers confirm: in the last three years, the average turnover was 5 million Euros per year, 90% of which was generated from overseas.

Two and four-wheeled projects

There are many collaborations in all automotive sectors. Customers that can be disclosed range from projects for premium brands such as BMW and McLaren, to industrial vehicles (including the line of heavy vehicles for the Russian Kamaz, for which all the engineering was also done), to two-wheelers such as the e-scooter for the very new Vietnamese brand Vinfast. “We are able to present a design proposal for exteriors and interiors in two weeks, with several design variants and a high level of detail,” Piatti explains.

The Izera concept cars

Of course, there are also new projects dedicated to electric vehicles, such as the one for ElectroMobility Poland, which presented two concepts – for a hatchback and an SUV – in Warsaw at the end of July that will go into production in 2023. “We also defined the DNA of their new Izera brand, which will be applied to future models”, explains design director Giuliano Biasio. Skills and hi-tech as winning elements, but also as a vision of the future: “I would also like to do training activities, with Villa Gualino as a reference for innovation and quality,” Piatti adds, hoping that Turin, with its network of skills in a strategic sector such as the automotive one, will regain its momentum. In the indomitable and visionary spirit of the great Riccardo Gualino.

(Full article in A&D no. 244)