The Origin

The service station designed by architect Angelo Bianchetti for the food company Pavesi in 1958 – which the installation Highway to Wilderness uses as main reference – is part of a broader network of rest areas along the Milan-Turin-Genoa highway. Situated on the Autostrada dei Laghi, in the proximity of the city of Lainate, the station is clearly identifiable from a distance, serving as a signpost of the available services: It belongs to a typology of buildings which, just like billboard advertisements, were meant to be perceived while in motion.

Starting in 1947, with the first service station near Novara, Bianchetti drew upon the American experiences in service station design and contributed approximately seventy projects to the Pavesi company, including the bridge-type station at Fiorenzuola d’Arda (1959) and the circular-plan building at Varazze (1960). In their entirety, the stations represent icons of the highway, objects of total design where each detail, from furniture to signage to uniforms, gives priority to the image and spectacle. Once a symbol of changing lifestyle and consumption models associated with mass automobility in Italy, which anticipated the inauguration of the Autostrada del Sole in 1964, the service station of Lainate, in a partially demolished state, is a witness today of a different reality; revisiting Bianchetti’s building today, aims to stress the need to critically engage with the relation between the highway environment, infrastructure, and the wilderness.