The content of the exhibition

The setting of the exhibition in Turin, photo by Davide Chemise
Photo Davide Chemise

The series of exhibitions, scheduled to be presented in Italy and abroad, is divided into various phases and is characterised by a central nucleus of 12 works selected from among Nervi’s most famous projects worldwide,  plus thematic sections created  “to measure” for each individual venue, introducing new materials, studies and testimonials of particular relevance for each site.

Nervi was one of the twentieth century’s greatest creators of architectural structures, creator of some of the most beautiful works of contemporary architecture, the result of an extraordinary union of art and science in building.

Nikolaus Pevsner defined him as “the most brilliant artist in reinforced concrete of our time”. He has been characterised as having the daring of an engineer, the imagination of an architect, and the practicality of a businessman.

Over his long career, his work encompassed at least six fundamental activities:  design, drawing, computation, modelling, writing and teaching.

While each of these activities was autonomous, all were intertwined in ways that were sometimes profound, making it possible to reconstruct the developments in a career that, from its very beginning, extended far beyond the common canons of civil engineering as usually applied to architecture.

The exhibit presents the original designs that were the basis for works that were exceptional, both in terms of scope and quality.  They can be found on all five continents and were commissioned by a most diverse group of clients, from UNESCO to Pope Paul VI.  Their study makes it possible to retrace a history that would have been difficult to tell in any other way, in which revolutionary construction techniques are frequently connected to Italian and international political history.

This travelling exhibition is the perfect vehicle to explore the complex world of culture and relationships in which Nervi moved, in addition to providing keys to understanding the formal inventiveness of his works.

The exhibition’s nucleus revolves around the illustration, through original drawings, scale models and photographs, of a selection of 12 of Nervi‘s most celebrated works in Italy and abroad.  First, the air hangars in Orbetello and Orvieto of the 1930s. Next, St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. Then it’s onto the Papal Audience Hall in Rome, followed by the end-60’s embassy in Brasilia. It also includes a look at the projects for the Olympic Games in Rome at the end of the 1950s, and those of Torino Esposizioni and the Palazzo di Lavoro.

Among exhibition highlights are a series of photographs of ten of Nervi’s iconographic works – all still standing today  – taken by the great Italian master of architectural photography, Mario Carrieri.

The scale models of the twelve works on display, created using today’s rapid prototyping technologies, were produced by the NerViLab of the Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering at the Sapienza University of Rome and the Department of Structural Engineering of the  Politecnico di Torino, contributing to an understanding of the depth of Nervi’s thinking, while showcasing its best possible outcome: the spatial expressiveness of structural compositions which speak the language of geometry.


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