In the 1950s, this old brick building in the northeastern Italian city of Udine served as both a gas station and a short-term motel for weary travelers who needed to take a nap after a long trip. As motoring culture evolved, so did the purpose of the space. It was converted into a garage and a car wash over the ensuing decades, until the local creative agency Visual Display got a hold of it and transformed it into its current incarnation: a hip hangout for the modern motorcycle enthusiast.
The space is designed to appeal to all kinds of people, including contemporary vagabonds, motorbike lovers, and Udine locals. Situated along a busy highway at the base of a mountain range and overlooking the sea, the Filling Station Motel offers its guests style, practical services, and a prime location. Visual Display retained many of the building’s original features, like the doors and windows, and took inspiration from retro motorist motels for the aesthetics.
The 500-square-meter hangar (about 5,381 square feet) still boasts its classic midcentury modern exterior, but it’s now covered in colorful stenciling that reads “moto custom,” “concept store,” and “osteria,” the latter term referring to a casual Italian eatery. Step through the front door, and you’ll find a sleek check-in (or rather, checkout) counter for a spacious open retail area, a brand new motorcycle workshop, and a pair oversized glass doors leading to the restaurant. Everything is painted matte black and oozes an industrial chic vibe, from the helmets mounted to the walls to the soft glow of the vintage tube lamps.
The workshop, which performs repair and customization services and also produces FSM brand motorcycles, is the heart of the business, enclosed in a kind of room within a room. It’s flanked by both the osteria, which itself offers simple, seasonal foods and local wines, and the concept store. Outside, café tables line the painstakingly restored facade, and of course, there’s plenty of parking for motorcycles. How could anyone biking through this part of Italy resist a stop here?
With a name like “Filling Station Motel,” you might expect this space to still offer beds like it did in the old days. Alas, that’s no longer the case. The name is more of a nostalgic tribute to the past, but this adaptation does preserve the spirit of the original structure — along with most of its architecture.
“Starting again is better on a motorcycle,” say the designers, adding: “beyond the entrance gate, underneath wide concrete arches painted in black, the workshop areas, offices, a convivial space, and the osteria have been created. Large transparent windows and wire mesh divisions connect all the areas and lead the guest through the different areas even with a glance.”
“You can sip a good glass of wine [while] comfortably sitting on vintage furniture or standing at the imposing concrete counter. Or you can have something to nibble while observing the motorcycles on display or watching the mechanics at work beyond two gigantic portholes. By recovering a piece of town history, the territory was rehabilitated, and we [can start to] look forward.”