"The hypermarket of the future, or the marketplace of 500 years ago". It's not a contradiction of terms. It's the result of a futuristic project strongly desired by Marco Brunelli, head of the Finiper Group, and designed by Davide Padoa, Chief Executive Officer of Design International, and architects Michele De Lucchi and Arnaldo Zappa. The historic Alfa Romeo plant site is now home to Arese's "Il Centro” shopping mall: 92,000 sq.m. and 250 commercial units, the largest shopping mall in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. The key features of an equally innovative and imposing architectural conversion job are large, open, airy spaces with lots of transparent surfaces, bright spaces, lightness and natural materials, like wood and glass, focussed on biosustainability and energy saving, inspired by the multiple courtyard system of ancient Lombard farmsteads. 

Opened last April, the 9,000 sq.m. IPER MONTEBELLO is the heart and soul of Il Centro, described by Director Marco Ruzza as the result of a quest to find new ways to promote Italy's most successful traditional speciality products and, at the same time, to simplify shopping by making it an informed, shared purchase experience that leads shoppers to discover an extraordinary world of flavours and expertise. It's a concept whose layout hinges on a system of themed islands where you can choose and purchase but also watch production and preparation of the product, and discover its secrets. There are no ledges or shelves reaching up to the ceiling, limiting access to goods and getting in the way of your line of sight. Everything is open and transparent, and the rapport between clients and staff, who are always there to describe the products, their features and how to use them, is direct and immediate.

This logic also includes ARNEG's major customised store fitting operation - the company being called upon once again to collaborate on a prestigious reinterpretation of a mass retail space - coming up with innovative bespoke solutions, customised detail with top quality materials and special finishes, in line with the build philosophy. A philosophy involving horizontal architectural features, open display units that play on the idea of market stalls, low structures (maximum height 2.05 m) for optimum access and visibility and a sharp awareness of the natural element, with the use of materials like wood and glass which bring lightness, vitality and continuity with the outside environment.

ARNEG, leading commercial refrigeration systems manufacturer is a staunch ally in the significant promotion of fresh produce, displayed in privileged positions at the heart of the hypermarket. Starting with the meat section where a superb display enhances the quality of cuts, in the GLASGOW serve-over counter, with a luxurious marble finish in an homage to traditional butcher's counters. The customised COLD ROOMS, where sides of beef are hung and matured, are completely open for viewing with glass sides showing off a scenic backdrop created with Himalayan pink rock salt. It's an incredible sight completed by a CIRCULAR CUTTING BLOCK, surrounded by a glass guard, which sits in the central area, and becomes the focus of a speciality food itinerary. Here meat is sectioned and prepared by professionals as customers look on. The chicken section offers an extraordinary peek into the world of poultry, enhanced by clever use of lighting and transparent materials, and the presence of cabinets like the BELGRADO 2, a new generation serve-over counter designed for ultimate product visibility from wherever you are looking at it. Another version of the BELGRADO (2H150) cabinet is found, along with the BERLINO TOTEM, in the fish section, a large space dedicated to promoting salt water produce and its preparation on view. The wealth of products in the cold meat and cheese section gives an idea of the immense variety offered by a gastronomic heritage that is one of a kind in the world. This triumph of forms and colours is enhanced by the ample space in the OSAKA 3 and PANAMA 3 cabinets that combine contemporary design with high, environmentally sustainable performance. The special design of this section boasts a micro cheese-making area which can produce up to twelve types of cheese. The horizontal, easily accessed open display table design logic also features strongly in the fresh deli counter area - where you can find the small, yet spacious and versatile SENDAI refrigerated counter - in the frozen section with the TORONTO G4 and ASTANA models, and in the "fresh packaged goods" section with the VELDEN semi-vertical cabinet designed for promotional sales. To ensure maximum flexibility, all counters in the store can either be ring circuit water-cooled or air-cooled, which means that they can be moved for special events during the year and then returned to their usual position.

The Iper supermarket in Arese is one of the first stores in Italy to have adopted cutting edge solutions that eliminate use of HFCs, using only carbon dioxide and reducing electricity consumption at the same time. Using intermediate compression stage technology and the multiple ejector reduces electricity consumption compared to the current R404A or R134a systems. Arneg's CO2 refrigeration system, the jewel in the company's crown, therefore takes a lead role in this context: by using carbon dioxide, the system is independent of tough European directives governing control of HFC fluids and regular system inspections. The sustained design effort that went into manufacturing this system makes it a pioneering example that will certainly be chosen as the benchmark for future creations of many different market players. 

Davide Padoa states, "With this operation, we have transformed the old Alfa Romeo from a car factory into a factory that creates experience". A brand new character, in line with a new generation of consumers and the latest trends in the food market.