VAARO + gabriel fain's barilla visitor center in parma features a wheat field on the roof

VAARO + gabriel fain's barilla visitor center in parma features a wheat field on the roof

in response to barilla’s call for a new visitor center at their factory campus near parma, italy, toronto-based studio VAARO, in collaboration with gabriel fain architects, has proposed a structure that incorporates elements of the neighboring domestic, agricultural and industrial typologies, as well as the surrounding wheat fields. the resulting form emerges as a singular gesture, carved into the landscape and uniting the diverse functions of the visitor center under one elongated roof.

rendering by aron lorincz



the building’s roof subtly morphs between two elemental and symbolic geometries – that of the house to the east and that of the factory to the west — all blanketed under a cover of crops. VAARO and gabriel fain’s visitor center combines the domestic familiarity of the home and the utility of the factory.

rendering by aron lorincz



functionally, the pavilion is comprised of two parallel programs — the larger, a display and event spaces, a shop and restaurant, and a public test kitchen with an industrial hood that rises to open and lowers to close according to its use. the smaller, a secondary bar with the consolidated support functions (such as storage, restrooms, and mechanical) and flexible use spaces that could accommodate an art gallery or children’s area.

rendering by nephew



as the secondary bar requires little or no natural daylight, it is fully buried within the hillside landscape. this configuration allows for primary public spaces that are free of any obstructions or back-of-house functions, creating open, fully flexible spaces.

roof plan



sustainability is key to the proposal, and it takes into account not only the design, construction process, building materials, operation, and maintenance, but also the building’s long-term viability. this starts with how the visitor center is located on its site — lengthwise along an east-west axis, with its south facade and roof fully covered and insulated with a blanket of soil and crops. the proposed building materials are renewable, robust and tactile, including wood, straw, and the site’s own soil.

plan of the level 2, where visitors will start and end their visits



the interior structure and cladding of the pavilion are composed of sustainable and locally-sourced wood, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. earth excavated from the foundations is reused to form the landscape berms and green roof, and also compacted to create the rammed-earth façade, which gives the visitor center a mineral and stratified expression. this thick façade provides the thermal mass required to heat and cool the building minimally. to be truly sustainable in the long run, the pavilion is designed to anticipate and allow for future changes in its interior layout and programming, thus extending its utility and lifespan.

plan of the level 1, with both indoor and outdoor public spaces


east-west section, through the public display spaces and outdoor event space


north-south section, through the test kitchen and the art gallery


north-south section, through the public entrance and visitor ‘experience’ area


diagrams of the public test kitchen, in open and closed configurations


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: maria erman | designboom

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