Top 5 Pier Luigi Nervi concrete constructions
by Nikola Tosic, 19 September 2017
Pier Luigi Nervi was an Italian structural engineer and architect, well known for his innovative use of reinforced concrete.
During his career, Nervi 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 innovative design solutions.
The following are the top 5 and most notable concrete construction he designed during his life:
1. The Pirelli Tower in Milan
The Pirelli Tower, also known as “Il Pirellone”, is a 31-storey, 127 m skyscraper situated in Milan, Italy. It was the first skyscraper that abandoned the customary block form. It is characterized by a structural skeleton, curtain walls façades and tapered sides and for its construction, it was used approximately 30,000 m3 (1,100,000 cu ft) of concrete. The skyscraper design has inspired the construction of several world skyscrapers, including Pan Am Building in New York.
2. Unesco Headquarters in Paris
Unesco Headquarter is composed of three buildings located on a 7,722 m2 site. The seven-story Secretariat, with its Y-shaped plan, is raised up on 72, five-meter high pilotis, masterly shaped by Nervi, who thus earned the nickname “the Michelangelo of reinforced concrete” in the French daily France Soir. The façades, instead, are treated differently based on their orientation. Many recognize the UNESCO Headquarters as proclamation, in a representative international building, of the majesty of reinforced concrete that Nervi’s always sought.
3. Tour de la Bourse in Montreal, Canada
Tour de la Bourse is a 48-storey skyscraper, 190 mt. high, situated in Montreal. When completed in 1964, the tower was the tallest building in Canada, a title it held until surpassed by the Toronto-Dominion Centre in 1967. Exposing the frame on the façade, Nervi diversified and conferred a hierarchy on the elements. The expression of the tower, wrapped by a continuous lightweight façade in glass and aluminum, is dominated by the incisive presence of the columns that rise up at each corner, and by the complex geometry of its volume, simultaneously paunchy and tapering.
4. St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, also known locally as Saint Mary’s Cathedral, is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. Its saddle roof is composed of eight segments of hyperbolic paraboloids, in such a fashion that the bottom horizontal cross-section of the roof is a square and the top cross section is a cross. The design is reminiscent of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo, which was built earlier in the decade. Measuring 255 feet (77.7 m) square, the cathedral soars to 190 feet (57.9 m) high and is crowned with a 55 feet (16.7 m) golden cross.
5. Italian Embassy in Brasilia
The Italian Embassy in Brasilia is articulated in the main volume, which contains the Chancellery and the Ambassador’s residence, and a second volume, with a cross-shaped plan, housing staff apartments.Typical of Nervi’s work, the main block with its complete form, impossible to repeat or modify, features a double symmetry and is configured as a “Palazzo”, modernistically transfigured by the structural energy of reinforced concrete and the expressive qualities of its exposed surfaces.The cardinal structural element is the tetrapod, an octagonal column that opens up with four arms. This type of configuration confirms Nervi’s habit, typical of all post-war Italian architecture, of designing finite structural forms, contrary to any attempt at standardization.