Places in Prato:
Rediscovered places

From factory to place of experimentation and research

Fabbricone

From factory to place of experimentation and research

At the end of the 19th century, Prato saw the emergence of the first industrial factories, which amazed with their enormous dimensions. One in particular, the largest seen up to that time, could boast a surface area of 23,000 sqm: Il Fabbricone.
Founded in 1889 in the countryside north of the city by the Austrian-German company Kössler-Mayer, it stood out not only for its huge size, but also for its number of employees (it had 900 workers when it opened, over 1200 in 1927, and up to 1500 in 1939). It was a textile factory that dealt in all the production phases except for spinning; in the 1930s a spinning department was finally set up.
A state-of-the-art factory even from the architectural point of view (with the first application in the city of wood shed roofing on cast iron columns), the factory is a complex of buildings punctuated by regular, symmetrical openings, and surrounded by high boundary walls that call to mind a fortified city.

After the war, the Austrian owners were sent away but returned in 1922, only to leave definitively after 5 years to make way for the joint-stock company Il Fabbricone Lanificio Italiano, managed by a Board of Directors. In 1960 management passed first to IRI and then to ENI, until the mid 1970s, when it was purchased by the current owners, the Prato family Balli, which continues the traditional production activity to this day in a section of the premises. A part of the factory built in 1947 was given to the Municipality for the creation of an innovative theatre, which was inaugurated in 1974 with a performance of Orestea directed by Luca Ronconi, marking the beginning of an alternative experience to the one offered by traditional Italian theatre. The Fabbricone Theatre, one of the most important in the city, has established itself nationally as a place of experimentation and research.

It was renovated in 2000 to a design by the engineer Francesco Stopaccioli. The new set up was conceived with the idea of preserving a connection with its manufacturing origins, recreating the industrial environment: the theatre seating consists of 364 telescopic stands mounted on metal supports.

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