Piazzetta Savonarola 6 , Forli, Municipality of Forlì, Emilia-Romagna Region, Italy
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Year of build:
Original name:
Deposito Autocorriere S.I.T.A Forlì
Alberto Flamigni
Past and Present Ownership of the Building/Site:

Past ownership: S.I.T.A.
Present ownership: Livia Tellus ROMAGNA HOLDING S.p.A

Degree of preservation and status of protection

The building is listed among the ones supervised by the government department responsible for the environment and historical buildings (Legislative Decree 42/04). The depot structure is compromised: its windows, the concrete structures outside; the condition of abandonment of the interior of the premises located in the courtyard (especially the car wash and the warehouses) is prominent. The building where the offices are located is, instead, restored, furnished and now used to store archive’s material and as a meeting place.

Architectural Description

Construction period: from August 1935 to June 30th, 1937 - the date of completion of the works in which it is declared that "The work has been carried out regularly".

The building was built in about a year and a half, in the large, vaguely triangular-shaped lot owned by SITA, about 4.500 square meters large. Meant to function as a garage, therefore, as a warehouse building and not a representative spot, the real estate complex consists of an area located in the historic centre of Forlì, structured as follows:

  • A main body (the larger), built in the period 1935-37, constituting the original core, with a covered area of ​​approximately 2.000 square meters, whose main entrance is strategically located on the current “Piazzale Savonarola”, at the corner with “Via Ugo Bassi”;
  • An office entrance from via Ugo Bassi, built after the above- mentioned main body, with a covered area of ​​approximately 125 square meters;
  • A set of small volumes, built for the vehicles’ storage, carried out after the original plant, with a covered area of ​​approximately 380 square meters;
  • Another portion is represented by the internal yard, which has a surface area of ​​approximately 2.200 square meters.

The building was built in a mixed structure in reinforced concrete and masonry. The main body is distributed over two floors, suitable for workshop, garage, warehouses, general services and offices.

The access building protrudes from the rest and two round corner towers connect the first to the second floor. They are interrupted at the height of the windows and placed in a continuous sequence in the upper part of the façade with concave wings.

The towers could let people think of a defensive structure; while the sills, the architraves, the protruding profile of the flat roof suggest the idea of ​​a pagoda.

The "industrial" building works as a garage and is characterized by a low block system, which occupies the lot on the road fronts and which, even in the elevations, is characterized by the use of materials and some architectural elements such as ribbon windows and sheds on the roof ( one of the main characteristics of this type of building).

The rest of the building is characterized by the rounded shape of the wall and by the simplicity of the materials appreciated by the designer: red terracotta, white travertine of the low plinth, reinforced concrete in the windowsills and architraves in the remaining structures.

The material that plays the leading role, however, is glass, used in two highly modern solutions.

Mainly, in the roof but, still, not visible to an external survey, because the saw-tooth profile (shed), typical of many industrial sites, does not rise upwards, but creates an effect of depth inside, due to the beams lattices without intermediate pillars to support the structure, which thus generate a great light effect.

The light is spread thanks to the windows following one another, which are clearly visible from the side of via Ugo Bassi, where they become the dominant element. Google satellite photos allows to see the area as a whole and to identity the particular “sheds”; it is also possible to notice the shape of the roof of the building, which would seem or could make people think of an inverted stylized “M” (initial letter from Mussolini, in line with the fascist propaganda, from the period the building was built).

Between 2008 and 2009, several extraordinary maintenance works were completed (the garage area; the workshop, the offices, the storage and the service area) on behalf of the owner ATR, consisting in the removal of all elements in fiber cement containing asbestos.

The need for the intervention was justified by the technical briefs, carried out - on behalf of the client - by specialized firms and by the evaluation of properties that featured similar materials. Following the removal, the construction of a new sealed covering was planned, consisting of bituminous sheath.

At the moment the space is again undergoing renovation works which will allow the static safety of the pylons and spans, the reconstruction of the shed frames of the roof and waterproof sheath and the anti-seismic improvement of the building.

Although not proposing prominent stylistic elements, the building presents interesting interpretations: first of all the main bridge entrance, on two floors, where two fake turrets simulate a defensive outpost. This solution allowed the users to be filtered to offices and services without interfering with the spaces for remittance. Secondary the large cover that strikes for the width of the covered surface without the aid of median columns.

History and Historical Context

The history of the former bus depot is strictly connected with that of S.I.T.A .: a guarantee in suburban and then urban public transport, in Forlì and in the region, since 1920.

The Italian Automobile Transport Company was founded in Turin in 1912, on the initiative of FIAT and other shareholders. Piedmont, Tuscany and Basilicata were the first regions to be affected by its service, but in 1960 Sita was present in 17 regions and counted 1.400 vehicles.

The Industrial Monography states that, in March 1920, SITA founded the headquarters in Forlì "in large and modern buildings, taking over the two postal car lines from the Italia and Valle Bidente company: Forlì-Rocca San Casciano-Dicomano and Meldola Santa Sofia".

The connection to Florence and, only in case of good weather, the Forlì-Predappio bus line were soon added. Then Cesenatico and Cervia. Cesena and Faenza’s groups operating in their respective areas also depended on the Forlì headquarters.

From the period of the garage construction and commissioning up to 1940, there was a considerable increase in the urban lines, which from 2 became 12. Vehicles had to be maintained in efficiency, strengthened and, in case, renewed. Also, thanks to its modern garage, the SITA service could better cope with the extra-urban and inter-regional connections to Tuscany and Marche, to the valleys, to the sea and to Ravenna, given that the at-the-time too slow tramway in 1929 had ceased his service.

The first Forlì headquarters of SITA was prestigious. In fact, it was located in the beautiful FIAT Garage built in 1922 in the current “Piazzale Della Vittoria”.

In 1926, the Forlì group was composed by: 4 employees; drivers, delivery boys, mechanics, apprentices and 25 caretakers. The Cesena group was composed by: 3 employees, drivers, delivery men, mechanics and 23 janitors. The Faenza group was composed by: an employee and 4 drivers and delivery men.

The final arrangement of the buses serving the Forlì area saw the construction of a building, in 1935, in “Piazzale Savonarola”, based on a project by Alberto Flamigni.

During the Second World War, the building adapted to the rules imposed by the reduction of transports. No significant damage was recorded during the War. An episode, dated August 2nd 1944, documented by a note from the police station, is significant: "around 9.30 p.m, a group of about 10 armed people showed up at the SITA garage in viale Crispi and after immobilizing the caretaker and cut the telegraph wires damaged a dozen vehicles with hammer blows making them temporarily useless. The aforementioned, who are believed to belong to a band of rebels, having carried out this act of sabotage, went away to an unknown destination ". Based in Forlì, GAP was a group meant to prevent the deportation of political prisoners and Jews.

In the post-war period, the bus depot maintained its function of a service infrastructure: the vehicles were renewed and coloured with the typical blue or green; diesel is imposed as fuel and new buses, often excellences of industrial design, replaced the antiquated ones.

With the economic boom, automobiles became more and more frequent and public transport entered a crisis.

In March 1975, the CTR (Consorzio Trasporti Romagnoli) was born. It was composed by 68 municipalities and provinces between Ravenna and Forlì and it took over the suburban service of S.I.T.A. In October, the same year, ATR (Azienda Trasporti Romagnoli) became operational and moved the headquarters and all the coaches to another location; thus, on 1st October 1975 the historical S.I.T.A. closed.

The bus depot passed to the new managing Company ATR (Azienda Trasporti Romagnoli) which took over the suburban service and, since 1987, also the urban one. But the old structure was no longer adequate in terms of location and equipment; so in 1998 the shutters were finally lowered and the Company moved to via Pandolfa, house of the new warehouse, while ATR was replaced by AMR (Agenzia Mobilità Romagnola).

Since 2009, the managing Company is START Romagna.

In 2010, two cultural associations got interested in this bus depot and transformed it into the headquarter of their activities. These are: Città di Ebla (performing arts and contemporary theatre) and Spazi Indecisi (urban regeneration and social innovation); two artistic collectives committed to the same discipline: rethinking spaces from a contemporary perspective.

At first, ATR granted Città di Ebla and Spazi Indecisi to temporarily use the spaces of the former warehouse and offices’ building, for “Ipercorpo” Contemporary Art Festival, Totally Lost and Cicli Indecisi (Spazi Indecisi exhibitions and events).

Year after year, the potential of this space, closed and unused for ten years, returned to surface, constantly renewing the interest of the property’s owners and the city.

In 2015, the building was temporarily closed for bureaucratic issues and the associations moved the activities to other unconventional places. This forced them to rethink EXATR as a space for opening up to new challenges, collaborations and audiences.
In 2016 the property of the building passed to Livia Tellus ROMAGNA HOLDING S.p.A.

The project matured and in 2016 the depot opened once again as a work in progress cultural hub, thanks to significant funding from the Emilia-Romagna Region and the support of the Municipality of Forlì to join this project. In that year a Temporary Association of Purpose - ATS - was created between the Municipality of Forlì (lead partner), ATR (owner of the property, now replaced by Livia Tellus Holding), Città di Ebla and Spazi Indecisi, co-financiers of the project.

EXATR thus became a reference point for present and future cultural activities in Forlì, related to performing and contemporary arts, and for advanced and innovative projects of cultural and urban regeneration, such as IN LOCO. The widespread museum of abandonment and Linee di Rigenerazione.

Values of the Building

The construction of a large garage was part of the modernization and "motorization" city plan, to which Mussolini aspired, as emerges from the documentation of the Istituto Luce and the State Archives of the City of Forlì.

"Pilgrimages" of tourists directed to visit Mussolini’s hometown or going on holiday to the sea colonies and travelling by coaches and buses are efficiently documented by N. Cefaratti, in “A bus called Sita, on page 36 and on page. 45”.

The need for a garage capable of guaranteeing, with adequate personnel, efficiency, cleanliness, order of vehicles was, therefore, in line with the image the Government wanted to give and the results to achieve. Nor should it be forgotten that, in 1935, among the projects presented for the modernization of Forlì, the Caesar XIII project, in which the garage area is present, won. The building is an important example of industrial architecture, which fits into the city fabric like other similar buildings. The entrance building has formal similarities with the Orsi-Mangelli building, due to the presence of the first floor with an access compartment and the second floor as a bridge.

The solution of the round towers can be related to the presence of the towers in the Palazzo dell'Alto Comando d'Armata in Bolzano, designed by Marcello Piacentini in the same year (1935), albeit with a different function.

Description of the Urban Context and Development

The area where EXATR is located has changed over the last 50 years. The closure of the silk factory in 1972 transformed the area while keeping the fabric popular. In the last 20 years the migratory flow has changed the cultural characteristics.

EXATR is located in the center of Forlì, in the San Pietro district, with an extension of 510,000 square meters, a population of 4,309 individuals and a percentage of foreign population of 32.7%. The district has the highest diversity index of the municipality, equal to 2,121, with 24% of subjects coming from Eastern Europe, 21% from North Africa and 17% from East Asia. The population is mainly young, 14% between 0-14 years (48.1% foreigners), 68% included between 15 and 64 years (38.1% foreigners) and 18% over 65 (4% foreigners).

New Cultural Tourist Offer Focused on Selected Building/Site

EXATR is an innovative cultural and social project, the first urban regeneration experience of the city of Forlì.

From 2016, every years EXATR hosts artistic and cultural events dedicated to performing arts, cinema but also street dance workshops, conferences and EU project meetings.

From EXATR, the exploration (by walk or by bike) to discover the most significant abandoned places in the city starts. Those spots are also mapped by Spazi Indecisi’s project IN LOCO, the Widespread Museum of Abandonment (www.inloco.eu).

The museum's archive and recently opened visitor centre is located inside the bus depot.