Nervi, Pier Luigi

Nervi, Pier Luigi
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b. 21 June 1891 Sondrio, Italy
d. 9 January 1979 (?), Italy
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Italian engineer who played a vital role in the use and adaptation of reinforced concrete as a structural material from the 1930s to the 1970s.
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Nervi early established a reputation in the use of reinforced concrete with his stadium in Florence (1930–2). This elegant concrete structure combines graceful curves with functional solidity and is capable of seating some 35,000 spectators. The stadium was followed by the aircraft hangars built for the Italian Air Force at Orvieto and Ortebello, in which he spanned the vast roofs of the hangars with thin-shelled vaults supported by precast concrete beams and steel-reinforced ribs. The structural strength and subtle curves of these ribbed roofs set the pattern for Nervi's techniques, which he subsequently varied and elaborated on to solve problems that arose in further commissions.
Immediately after the Second World War Italy was short of supplies of steel for structural purposes so, in contrast to the USA, Britain and Germany, did not for some years construct any quantity of steel-framed rectangular buildinngs used for offices, housing or industrial use. It was Nervi who led the way to a ferroconcrete approach, using a new type of structure based on these materials in the form of a fine steel mesh sprayed with cement mortar and used to roof all kinds of structures. It was a method that resulted in expressionist curves instead of rectangular blocks, and the first of his great exhibition halls at Turin (1949), with a vault span of 240 ft (73 m), was an early example of this technique. Nervi continued to create original and beautiful ferroconcrete structures of infinite variety: for example, the hall at the Lido di Roma, Ostia; the terme at Chianciano; and the three buildings that he designed for the Rome Olympics in 1960. The Palazzetto dello Sport is probably the most famous of these, for which he co-operated with the architect Annibale Vitellozzi to construct a small sports palace seating 5,000 spectators under a concrete "big top" of 194 ft (59 m) diameter, its enclosing walls supported by thirtysix guy ropes of concrete; inside, the elegant roof displays a floral quality. In 1960 Nervi returned to Turin to build his imaginative Palace of Labour for the centenary celebrations of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel in the city. This vast hall, like the Crystal Palace in England a century earlier (see Paxton), had to be built quickly and be suitable for later adaptation. It was therefore constructed partly in steel, and the metal supporting columns rose to palm-leaf capitals reminiscent of those in ancient Nile palaces.
Nervi's aim was always to create functional buildings that simultaneously act by their aesthetic qualities as an effective educational influence. Functionalism for Nervi never became "brutalism". In consequence, his work is admired by the lay public as well as by architects. He collaborated with many of the outstanding architects of the day: with Gio Ponti on the Pirelli Building in Milan (1955–9); with Zehrfuss and Breuer on the Y-plan UNESCO Building in Paris (1953–7); and with Marcello Piacentini on the 16,000-seat Palazzo dello Sport in Rome. Nervi found time to write a number of books on building construction and design, lectured in the Universities of Rio de Janiero and Buenos Aires, and was for many years Professor of Technology and Technique of Construction in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Rome. He continued to design new structures until well into the 1970s.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
RIBA Royal Gold Medal 1960. Royal Institute of Structural Engineers Gold Medal 1968. Honorary Degree Edinburgh University, Warsaw University, Munich University, London University, Harvard University. Member International Institute of Arts and Letters, Zurich; American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm.
Bibliography
1956, Structures, New York: Dodge.
1945, Scienza o Arte del Costruire?, Rome: Bussola.
Further Reading
P.Desideri et al., 1979, Pier Luigi Nervi, Bologna: Zanichelli.
A.L.Huxtable, 1960, Masters of World Architecture; Pier Luigi Nervi, New York: Braziller.
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Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Nervi, Pier Luigi — born June 21, 1891, Sondrio, Italy died Jan. 9, 1979, Rome Italian engineer and building contractor. He became internationally renowned for his invention of ferro cement, a material of his own invention composed of dense concrete heavily… …   Universalium

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  • Pier Luigi Nervi — noun Italian architect who pioneered in the use of reinforced concrete (1891 1979) • Syn: ↑Nervi • Instance Hypernyms: ↑architect, ↑designer …   Useful english dictionary

  • Nervi — Nervi, Pier Luigi …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • nervi — [ nɛrvi ] n. m. • 1804; plur. de l it. nervo « vigueur » 1 ♦ Vx (arg. marseillais) Portefaix. 2 ♦ Vieilli Homme sans aveu. 3 ♦ Mod. Homme de main, tueur. ⇒ sbire. Des nervis. ● nervi nom mas …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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