Photo by Via della costituzione

The technological and industrial development of the region of Reggio Emilia and of Italy has passed through the Officine Meccaniche Reggiane.
The Officine Meccaniche Reggiane have been about history and progress, work and trade union battles. They are an indelible part of Italy’s industrial, civil and trade union history from the beginning of the 1900s up to the early 2000s when production was permanently decommissioned. It is an enormous 250,000 m2 area with huge warehouses that represent key stages of Italian history.

The Officine Meccaniche Reggiane were founded in 1901 by Mr Righi as mechanical workshops and a foundry. This international giant’s production was developed on manufacturing railway carriages and shells.
During the First World War, the sector dealing with the military side was favoured and the Officine Reggiane were involved in a large order for biplanes. However, this order was never completed and it is thought that only one of the commissioned biplanes managed to fly.
During the interwar crisis, the story of this industrial hub went through investor takeovers, the involvement of the IRI to rescue the company, worker sit-ins of the buildings to block the mass redundancies of 2100 people, as well as many conversions and the development of the aeronautics sector, which led the Officine Reggiane to close a deal with Hungary for the supply of 70 airplanes. In actual fact, expressions of interest for the last product made at the Officine Reggiane even came from England, Sweden, Yugoslavia and Spain, but due to the outbreak of war, these orders were never formalised.

The company came to employ about 12,000 employees. It was a real industrial giant which in the ’50s witnessed the largest worker protest ever seen: the worker sit-in continued for a year, but while they were occupying the building the workers continued to go to work unpaid, building a tractor to show that the factory could continue to survive and employ staff by converting the wartime industry back into the agricultural industry.

Production was permanently stopped in 2009 and since then warehouse 19 has been used by the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, which has set up a Technology Hub.
The renovation of warehouse 19 was part of the redevelopment project for the North Area of the city, which included setting up a “Park of knowledge, innovation and creativity” that would also involve the other abandoned warehouses.
Today, the Officine Reggiane Technology Hub, also known as the Technopole, is home to the research laboratories of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, creating jobs for 90 researchers and serving as the main location for most of the events in Reggio Emilia dedicated to innovation.
However, all the warehouses that have not yet been converted are used as an open-air gallery by some of the most influential Italian writers, who in turn brought in internationally famous artists, turning this disused industrial area into a gallery of over 1000 works of art.