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PIER LUIGI NERVI – A RETROSPECTIVE

Pier Luigi Nervi (June 1891-January 9, 1979) was a world renowned Italian engineer and architect. He was especially well known for his dramatic sense of design and innovative use of reinforced concrete. Let us take a look at some of his well known works here.

Stadio Flaminio, Rome (1957)
The Stadio Flaminio is one of the outstanding works of Pier Luigi Nervi. Located along the Via Flaminia, three kilometers northwest of Rome’s city centre, the stadium has hosted several sports events. The interior spaces of the arena include a covered swimming pool, rooms for fencing, amateur wrestling, weightlifting, boxing, and gymnastics.

When it was built in July 1957, it was conceived as a venue for football matches. The Stadio Flaminio had in fact served as the venue for the football final of the 1960 Rome Olympics. The stadium which can seat over 30,000 spectators has a main grandstand that shows the renowned architects master touch. The main grandstand with a cantilevered roof is one of the highlights of the architecture of the sports arena. The roof’s long span with its folded precast plates is another distinguishing feature of the stadium.

One of the important features of this engineering and architectural marvel is the use of various different shapes that has been incorporated in the structural design, while at the same time taking care of the specific functional needs of a sports facility. While several other modifications have taken place since the stadium was first used, the basic structural elements remain the same. The sweeping expanse of the stadium makes it ideally suited for a variety of sports, whether it is rugby, football, or even musical concerts.

Palazzo del Lavoro, Turin (1961)
The Pallazzo del Lavoro in Turin which was completed in 1961 is another one of the masterpieces of Pier Luigi Nervi. The building is an example of how functional design can perfectly coexist along with aesthetic architecture. The radial branches that fill up the interior of the building with the massive central columns offer an insight into the Nervi’s creative genius.

The building which literally translated in English means ‘The Palace of Labour’ was designed for the Turin exhibition of 1961. It was actually designed and built by Nervi and his son Antonio. The building’s design was chosen after a competition that was held in 1959. The vast expanse of the interiors, which features a massive 85,000 square feet of exhibition space presented a unique set of challenges to architects and engineers.

Another challenge for the renowned architect and engineer was that the building’s design had to be such that at the end of the exhibition it had to be ready for being converted into a technical school. This presented a unique set of challenges. Incredibly, not only did was the building completed while fulfilling all these aspects, it was also constructed within a time span of eighteen months.
Palazzetto dello Sport, Turin (1961)
The Palazzetto dello Sport, also known as Pala Flaminio and Pala Tiziano is considered among the top works of Pier Luigi Nervi. The designer who was known to blend techniques from the past with the functional requirements of the present, created this indoor arena for the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics.

This work from the man popularly referred to as ‘The Great Italian God of Concrete’, features a cupola which is a trademark of Nervi. The outer dense pattern with the ‘Y’ shaped pillars is another eye-catching characteristic of the stadium. The stadium has been designed for seating around 3,500 spectators. It is ideally suited for a variety of indoor games such as basketball and volleyball. The indoor arena has hosted several prestigious games since the time of its inauguration and is counted among the top sports venues in Italy.

The Palazzetto dello Sport was home to the Italian basketball club Lottomatica Roma for a period of several years. One of the recurring themes of the architectural genius of Nervi’s works is his inspiration from ancient works. Rome is famed for its geometry-based domes since ancient times and this is reflected in this indoor stadium’s design. Nervi has used such patterns in some of his other works around the world too. The view of the dome from the interior too makes for a spectacle. It is not surprising that it is considered among the most unique works of the genius.

Sacro Cuore (Bell Tower), Florence (1962)
No mention of Pier Luigi Nervi could be complete without discussing on the Chisea del Sacro Cuore, which when translated means ‘The Church of the Sacred Heart’, located in Florence. The renowned architect was involved with the design of the imposing Bell Tower in the iconic church complex.

The construction of the church was carried out in different phases and makes for some interesting reading. It was first, Ludovico da Casoria, a Franciscan priest and the founder of the Congregation of Frati Bigi, who had the church built between 1874 and 1877. The church’s original design has been modeled on San Salvatore al Monte.

It was in 1941 that it was decided to give a facelift to the church. A complete restructure was ordered and this is when architect Lando Bartoli was heading the project. The restructuring took place between 1956 and 1962. A modern bell tower was conceived as part of the restructuring project. This is when Bartoli
George Washington Bridge Bus Station, New York City (1963)
The George Washington Bridge Bus Station in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan in New York City is among the few buildings that Pier Luigi Nervi did outside of Italy. The worldrenowned engineer-architect built this landmark bus station which is owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. According to estimates the bus station serves about 17,000 passengers and 950 buses on a typical weekday. The bus station has three levels and lies above a subway train station at the 175th street in Manhattan. The bus station has been constructed over the busy Trans-Manhattan Expressway, a twelve–lane highway. The bus station was constructed at a cost of approximately US $16,00,000. The construction of the bus station involved creation of 26 triangular sections made up of poured concrete and steel. Out of the 26 rectangular sections, 14 slope upwards forming a butterfly effect. Each one of the triangular sections measure 92 by 66 feet. Another interesting feature is the exposed concrete. The overall architectural design of the building has been conceived to complement that of the George Washington Bridge.

The bus station’s architecture and engineering was appreciated, with it receiving the 1963 Concrete Industry Board Award as the “structure that represented the best in conception, originality, and applicability in concrete for both design and construction.”

-M.K.Prabhakar, National Award Winning Journalist -2012

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