Is this the most beautiful petrol station in the world?

A monument to the motorcar, the Fiat Tagliero building in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea is an inspirational and iconic piece of architecture and one that demonstrates how design for the forecourt can be both beautiful and functional. Completed in 1938, the Futurist-style petrol station was designed by Italian architect Giuseppe Pettazzi and embodies the spirit of the motor car, which in the 1930s offered for the first time, cheap, mass-produced personal transport for everybody. The motorcar was the promise of speed, freedom and accessible luxury - a pioneering spirit that would change people's lives forever.

The elegant, streamlined design of the building features two 15m cantilevered wings either side of a soaring central tower that house office space, cashier desk and a shop. The wings float effortlessly above the ground, providing a double-canopy to shade customers as they fill up.

The wings are constructed from re-enforced concrete and at the time of building there appear to have been fears that once the supports were taken away, the wings would simply crash to the floor. In an extreme demonstration of the conviction he had in his design, Pettazzi stood at the end of one of the wings and held a gun to the head of the main builder, threatening to shoot him if the supports were not removed! The wings held of course.

Now a listed building, the Fiat Tagliero was restored in 2003 and stands as a great example of Post WWII Futurist architecture.

Neil Giles

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