Ephemeral Arts Connection 2012



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The main idea of Nervi’s work is the static; he said: “Always in my engineering work I observed that the static suggestions interpreted and defined with patient work of research and proportioning are the most effective fonts of architectonic inspiration. For me this rule is absolute and there aren’t exceptions”.

Born in Sondrio in 1891, Nervi was one of the undisputed masters of structural architectures in the international scene, the engineer of extraordinary buildings, whose production embraced great part of the Twentieth Century. Thanks to his technical-structural solutions he gave life at some of the most beautiful works of the contemporary architecture. Graduate in civil engineering in Bologna in 1913, Nervi addressed  himself, throughout his professional career, to the engineering and calculation of architectural structures; following his fascination for the reinforced concrete, worked for long time with the “Society for concrete constructions” in Bologna and in Florence.

The stadium Berta of Florence, the Palace of Exhibitions and the Place of Work of Torino, the Embassy of Italy in Brasilia, the works realized in Rome for the Olympics of the 1960, the skyscraper Pirelli in Milan, the Headquarters of UNESCO in Paris, the Bus Station of the bridge George Washington in New York, the bridge Risorgimento in Verona, the skyscraper Victoria Square in Montréal, the Cathedral St. Mary in San Francisco, the hall of the pontifical hearings in Città del Vaticano: are some of the spectacular projects by Pier Luigi Nervi.

Nature reserves a myriad of inspirations for a contemplator spirit, but in the act of the creation and the construction there are also the constraints imposed by the physical laws that limit the creativity of the artist. Pier Luigi Nervi knew, in the course of his life as constructor, how to overcome these constraints in a brilliant and precise way; he did it with experimentation and research and his roof structures are an example of it.

For Nervi the art isn’t only conceivable as aesthetic, but is pure functionality and static. The attention at the technical and economical control made successful also the projects for hangars, realized for the Regia Aeronautica Italiana: the hangars built for the seaplane airport of Marsala and in the airport of Pantelleria are still today in good conditions and are the only example of the Nervi’s production for this kind of structures, even is still open the discussion about the direct authorship of the hangar in Pantelleria.

The production of the the thirties and forties, with its compositional clarity, imposed Nervi on the attention of the public. He became soon the symbol of the evolutionism in architecture, the symbol of a continuum between the great artistic past of the Italy and the present. The wisdom to combine art and science, technique and elegance, without ever losing to sight functions and costs, is the value that contributed to make Pier Luigi Nervi one of the greatest architects of the twentieth century.


The internal spatiality of the large room, defined by parallel succession of arcs built through the assemblage of elements in reinforced concrete prefabricated on site, is certainly much less fascinating than that one tried in the first series of hangars in Orvieto (1935-38) and in the second in Orvieto, Orbetello and Torre del Lago (1939-42). The absence of the diagonal lines crossed at 45° that were combined with the arc structure, breaking the rigid orthogonal syste, brings the intern space of the hangar to the maximum autarchic coefficient and much less spectacular; though the Sicilian project it isn’t negligible for two reasons:

The first  is related to the specific design and constructive process of Nervi, not casually defined “Nervi system”. It is linked to the fact that each project and realization marks a point that is indispensable to understand steps of subsequent choices, in a process that made of the practice of experimentation on model and realizations its own foundation. So this prototype of the maximum autarchic coefficient, that are the hangars of Marsala, loses in spatial quality compared to the the first series of hangars in Orvieto, but acquires in constructive economy, thanks to the prefabrication on site of the reticular elements (the arcs), becoming one of the constitutional moments of the “Nervi system”. Perhaps, as hypothesized in the case of Monte Corvino, the project and then realization precede the second series of hangars in Orvieto, Orbetello and Torre del Lago, defining a first simplified test of the on site prefabrication system .

The second reason is due to the cases of the history and is related to the the subsistence of the hangars. They are the only live example, together with the structures in Monte Corvino, about the constructive system used by Nervi.


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