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It’s hard to believe that it all started in an Italian garage. But it was here in the small town of Cesena where 22-year-old Nerio Alessandri built his first exercise machine back in 1983, allowing people to do leg presses and squats without the risks of traditional free weights. The machine found instant success in local gyms and soon Alessandri was building running machines, cycling machines, you name it, as his Technogym fitness and exercise empire expanded.
Words and Images by James Startt
Technogym has long been associated with professional athletes. Cyclists may well remember the MG Technogym team of the 1990s. And of course the team headquarters here in Cesena are only about 15 kilometers from the seaside town of Cesenatico, home to a certain Marco Pantani, an early member of the MG Technogym team. Today the company works directly with international stars like Raphael Nadal, numerous soccer teams, as well as being an eight-time Official Supplier to the Olympic Games, providing hundreds of exercise machines to the Olympic Villages.
But while the company has plenty of professional pedigree, its heart and soul is focused on the fitness and health of everyday people. Alessandri’s vision is simply of a healthier, fitter planet, starting right here at his company headquarters, just a few kilometers from the garage where he got his start over 35 years ago.
One rarely associates industrial and commercial zones along interstates and highways as a Mecca of public health. But it is here, in the shadows of the E45 autoroute, where the Technogym Village, a modern architectural complex based on concepts of eco-sustainability and bio-architecture, lies. In short, it is the epitome of a modern workspace, designed to enhance the health, productivity and creativity of those within.
“The Technogym Village has been conceived, together with my brother Pierluigi and with the architect Antonio Citterio, as a wellness campus with three specific goals in mind: to consolidate all Technogym innovation and production operations, to offer our employees a unique wellness workplace and to welcome all our stakeholders, including clients, coaches, trainers, doctors and more, to live firsthand our wellness experience,” says Technogym founder Alessandri, who is still deeply involved with the company as its CEO.
In some ways the Technogym Village finds its roots in 20th-century architectural experiments by futuristic architects like Le Corbusier, who built autonomous apartment complexes that included gyms, restaurants, shopping centers and child-care facilities. But in many ways the Technogym Village goes much further. No, there are no actual apartments in this village. But just about everything else can be found inside the sprawling complex that houses the vast company factory, its research and development department, a campus for international conferences, a lavish workout center for its employees—which doubles as a showroom for clients—as well as an organic restaurant.
At the Wellness Campus, as it’s known, employees can regularly work out around their schedules and are given annual fitness reports with suggestions to better improve their health, fitness and overall quality of life.
Built in 2012, the Technogym Village is firstly a gigantic workspace for the more than 1,000 employees on hand here in Cesena. It occupies more than 60,000 square meters (approx. 646,000 sq ft.), with the majority of the workspace dedicated to the manufacturing and shipping facilities that produce and ship thousands of machines per year. But even within the most industrial parts of the complex, utmost attention has been paid to creating a healthy workspace. There is an obvious emphasis on natural lighting with large windows and sunroofs that are positioned to mirror the direction of the sun from morning to evening, while plants are commonly integrated into the facilities. The offices, too, benefit from abundant light, while even the furniture is designed to improve and strengthen the posture of the employees.
Food is also a central ingredient at the Wellness Campus and the on-location T-Restaurant offers breakfast and lunch possibilities with an organic, vegetarian and Mediterranean menu to suit the different dietary requirements of the employees.
Make no doubt about it, if you are looking for a modern manifestation of the ancient Roman motto mens sana in corpore sano, “a healthy mind in a healthy body,” look no further than the Technogym Village.
“All the employees take part in a corporate wellness program that starts with the wellness checkup every year,” says Silvano Zanuso, scientific communication and research director at Technogym. “We keep track of the medical wellness of each employee. It is a full comprehensive medical screening that we put into place 20 years ago and carry out every year. After that, each person has suggestions for their fitness program and all of that is run here at the Wellness Center.”
It comes as no surprise perhaps that the Wellness Center is equipped with a wide range of state-of-the-art Technogym equipment. And the entire two-floor workout center is run by Technogym certified trainers, known as Technogym Ambassadors, who animate classes or provide hands-on advice to those working out.
But perhaps the heart of the Technogym Village is the Research and Innovation center, where the most advanced studies on athletes as well as the various products take place. Here a team of over 200 physiotherapists, doctors, engineers, scientists, IT experts and industrial designers work to create new prototypes of equipment that will provide improvements in athletic training and rehabilitation.
In line with the company’s long lasting commitment in scientific research, the new TECHNOGYM LAB represents a key component of Technogym’s innovation process. The new lab analyzes evidence and data emerging from the newest studies in medicine, physiology and biomechanics, and tests new solutions in order to continuously innovate both product biomechanics and digital services.
The space is fitted with five different testing areas dedicated to the analysis of each major aspect of human physiology, biomechanics and health, allowing the research team to conduct state of the art scientific analysis with sections dedicated to metabolic testing, neuromuscular testing as well as rooms dedicated to motion analysis, medical counseling, rehab and physical therapy. Furthermore, the Technogym specialists are in constant contact with other specialists from universities around the world that they partner with.
But while the lab often hosts Technogym’s top athletes to participate in their studies, the company employees are also common participants. After all, Technogym’s first goal is to improve the general health and fitness of the entire world. Mens sana in corpore sano may be an Italian expression dating back to Ancient Rome, but Alessandri and his Technogym team are committed to spreading it around the world.