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Pier Luigi Nervi

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Pier Luigi Nervi
Pier Luigi Nervi
Born(1891-06-21)21 June 1891
Sondrio, Italy
Died9 January 1979(1979-01-09) (aged 87)
Rome, Italy
EducationUniversity of Bologna
Engineering career
DisciplineStructural engineer, architect
InstitutionsSociety for Concrete Construction
Institution of Structural Engineers
ProjectsOlympic Stadium in Rome (1960)
UNESCO headquarters in Paris (1950)
Hangar in Orvieto (1935)
AwardsIStructE Gold Medal
Wilhelm Exner Medal (1957)
AIA Gold Medal (1964)

Pier Luigi Nervi (21 June 1891 – 9 January 1979) was an Italian engineer and architect. He studied at the University of Bologna graduating in 1913. Nervi taught as a professor of engineering at Rome University from 1946 to 1961 and is known worldwide as a structural engineer and architect and for his innovative use of reinforced concrete, especially with numerous notable thin shell structures worldwide.


Nervi was born in Sondrio and attended the Civil Engineering School of Bologna from which he graduated in 1913; his formal education was quite similar to that experienced today by Italian civil engineering students. After graduating he joined the Society for Concrete Construction and, during World War I from 1915 to 1918, he served in the Corps of Engineering of the Italian Army. From 1961 to 1962 he was the Norton professor at Harvard University.

Civil engineering works[edit]

Nervi began practicing civil engineering after 1923. His projects in the 1930s included several airplane hangars that were important for his development as an engineer. A set of hangars in Orvieto (1935) were built entirely out of reinforced concrete, and a second set in Orbetello and Torre del Lago (1939) improved the design by using a lighter roof, precast ribs, and a modular construction method.[1]

During the 1940s he developed ideas for 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.[citation needed] 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[edit]

Nervi was educated and practised as an ingegnere edile (translated as "building engineer") – 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.[2] His work was also part of the architecture event in the art competition at the 1936 Summer Olympics.[3]

International projects[edit]

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, for which he designed the roof, which consists of triangular pieces that were cast in place. This building is still used today by over 700 buses and their passengers.

Noted works[edit]

The Tour de la Bourse in Montreal (1964)


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

In 1957, received the Frank P. Brown Medal of The Franklin Institute and the Wilhelm Exner Medal.


  • Scienza o arte del costruire? Bussola, Rome, 1945.
  • Costruire correttamente, Hoepli, Milan, 1954.
  • Structures, Dodge, New York, 1958.
  • Aesthetics and Technology in Building (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, 1961-62). Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1965.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leslie, Thomas (3 January 2014). "nervi hangars". architecturefarm. Archived from the original on 2014-01-29. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  2. ^ Six Nations 2011: Stadio Flaminio dig to reveal Roman 'City of the Dead' at guardian.co.uk
  3. ^ "Pier Luigi Nervi". Olympedia. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  4. ^ Republished with critical and historical essays as: Nervi, Pier Luigi (2018). Aesthetics and technology in building : the twenty-first-century edition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

External links[edit]