The Olivetti Store, set to conquer Fifth Avenue

Negozio Olivetti sulla Fifth Avenue di New York

In 1954, the Olivetti Store opened on New York’s Fifth Avenue – the center of the world’s wealth and business world at the time, especially in the stretch between 34th and 59th Street.

For the United States, 1954 was a year of important achievements. The country was at the international helm of technological innovation, and saw the first color TV and transistor radios launched on the market that year (not to mention iconic electric guitar and timeless classic, the Fender Stratocaster).

Italy had its dose of success in 1954 as well. Compagnoni and Lacedelli reached the top of K2, and – mutatis mutandis – Olivetti conquered the height of success, symbolized by its new store in the Big Apple.

Adriano Olivetti entrusted BBPR – a firm founded in Milan by Gianluigi Banfi, Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti, and Ernesto Rogers – with what would become a masterpiece of architecture, and Sardinian artist Costantino Nivola with interior decor.

The space was eight meters by twenty-three, with five-meter ceilings, and was designed to be the store of the future – a concept and aesthetic Apple Stores would emulate decades later.

On Christmas Day in 1955, Olivetti gave an “epic” speech, full of pride for his company’s international achievements:

“Now that Olivetti is an important symbol of progress on New York’s Fifth Avenue, next to the United Nations’ great building […], and that the Olivetti brand – and Ivrea’s name with it – are held in high regard, you have the right to ask and know: what is our goal? Where is all of this going? […] This organization is built for a sole purpose: to ensure more safety, more freedom, and more wellbeing to the factory and to the people who work there.”

The Olivetti Store on Fifth Avenue was shut down in the early 1970s, but here are some vintage photos of this unique, futuristic space.

December 23, 2015