Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pier Luigi Nervi (June 21, 1891 â€" January 9, 1979) was an Italian engineer. He studied at the University of Bologna and qualified in 1913. Dr. Nervi taught as a professor of engineering at Rome University from 1946-61. He is widely known as a structural engineer and an architect, and for his innovative use of reinforced concrete.


Pier Luigi Nervi was born in Sondrio and attended the Civil Engineering School of Bologna, from which he graduated in 1913. After graduation, Nervi joined the Society for Concrete Construction. Nervi spent several years in the Italian army during World War I from 1915â€"1918, when he served in the Corps of Engineering. His formal education was quite similar to that experienced by today's civil engineering student in Italy.

From 1961-1962 Nervi was the Norton professor at Harvard University.

Civil engineering works


Nervi began practicing civil engineering after 1923, and built several airplane hangars amongst his contracts. During the 1940s he developed ideas for a reinforced concrete which helped in the rebuilding of many buildings and factories throughout Western Europe, and even designed and created a boat hull that was made of reinforced concrete as a promotion for the Italian government.

Nervi also stressed that intuition should be used as much as mathematics in design, especially with thin shell structures. He borrowed from both Roman and Renaissance architecture while applying ribbing and vaulting to improve strength and eliminate columns. He combined simple geometry and prefabrication to innovate design solutions.

Engineer and architect

Pier Luigi Nervi was educated and practised as a ingegnere edile (translated as "building engineer") â€" in Italy, at the time (and to a lesser degree also today), a building engineer might also be considered an architect. After 1932, his aesthetically pleasing designs were used for major projects. This was due to the booming number of construction projects at the time which used concrete and steel in Europe and the architecture aspect took a step back to the potential of engineering. Nervi successfully made reinforced concrete the main structural material of the day. Nervi expounded his ideas on building in four books (see below) and many learned papers.

Archeological excavations suggested that he may have some responsibilities for the Flaminio stadium foundations passing through ancient Roman tombs.

International projects

Most of his built structures are in his native Italy, but he also worked on projects abroad. Nervi's first project in the United States was the George Washington Bridge Bus Station. He designed the roof which consists of triangle pieces which were cast in place. This building is still used today by over 700 buses and their passengers.

Noted works

  • Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence (1931)
  • Exhibition Building, Turin, Italy (1949).
  • UNESCO headquarters, Paris (1950) (collaborating with Marcel Breuer and Bernard Zehrfuss)
  • The Pirelli Tower, Milan (1950) (collaborating with Gio Ponti)
  • Palazzo dello sport EUR (now PalaLottomatica), Rome (1956)
  • Palazzetto dello sport, Rome (1958)
  • Stadio Flaminio, Rome (1957)
  • Palazzo del Lavoro, Turin (1961)
  • Palazzetto dello sport, Turin (1961)
  • Sacro Cuore (Bell Tower), Firenze (1962)
  • Paper Mill, Mantua, Italy (1962)
  • George Washington Bridge Bus Station, New York City (1963)
  • Australia Square tower, Sydney (1964)
  • Tour de la Bourse, Montreal (1964) (collaborating with Luigi Moretti)
  • Field House at Dartmouth College
  • Edmund Barton Building (also published as Trade Group Offices), Canberra (1970)
  • MLC Centre, Sydney (1973)
  • Thompson Arena at Dartmouth College (1973â€"74)
  • Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, San Francisco, California (1967) (collaborating with Pietro Belluschi)
  • Paul VI Audience Hall, Vatican City (1971)
  • Australian Embassy, Paris (1973) Consulting engineer
  • Good Hope Centre, Cape Town (1976) by Studio Nervi, an exhibition hall and conference centre, with the exhibition hall comprising an arch with tie-beam on each of the four vertical facades and two diagonal arches supporting two intersecting barrel-like roofs which in turn were constructed from pre-cast concrete triangular coffers with in-situ concrete beams on the edges.
  • Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, VA (1971)


Pier Luigi Nervi was awarded Gold Medals by the Institution of Structural Engineers, the American Institute of Architects (AIA Gold Medal 1964), and the RIBA.

He was also awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal of The Franklin Institute in 1957.


  • Scienza o arte del construire? Bussola, Rome, 1945.
  • Construire correttamente, Hoepli, Milan, 1954.
  • Structures, Dodge, New York, 1958.
  • Aesthetics and Technology in Building. Cambridge, Mass, Harvard, 1966.

See also

  • Thin-shell structure


External links

  • Photos Palazzetto dello sport 1958 District Flaminio, Rome, Italy.
  • Pier Luigi Nervi information at Structurae
  • Pierluigi Nervi e l'arte di costruire, Fausto Giovannardi, Borgo San Lorenzo (Florence) Italy 2008
  • NerViLab at Sapienza University, Rome
  • Pier Luigi Nervi Project
  •, catalogue to the international travelling exhibition "Pier Luigi Nervi Architecture as Challenge, edited by Cristiana Chiorino and Carlo Olmo, Milan, 2010

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