Rome for more than a day


With the Chicago book now mostly in the publisher’s hands (and semi-officially due out in May, 2013–watch this space for further details), I’m shifting my focus a bit, at least for a little while. Skyscrapers are and endless source of questions and possible investigations, but given that I’ve been working on their history for nine years, now, I’ve decided I’m entitled to spend some research travel funds somewhere other than Chicago. Or Kokomo.

Rome will do, thanks. I taught here in Iowa State’s study abroad program in 2008, and among other things I sort of re-discovered Nervi. The Palazetto Della Sport (above), which he designed for the 1960 Olympics, formed the lynch pin of one of my first academic papers, and I’m constantly surprised by how often I end up using his buildings in class to illustrate one structural principle or another.

I’ve been meaning to get back to his work ever since, and this month I’m doing some basic reconnaissance to see what structures of his are still in use, what sort of shape they’re in, etc., and to get into the Nervi archives at MAXXI. I know some of the news won’t be good–the Olympic buildings themselves are in dubious shape, and I gather that some of his more interesting industrial work has disappeared. All the more reason to document them and, maybe, to put together some essays and analytical work to draw attention to a body of work that’s remarkably consistent yet also probing and full of surprises.

And there are skyscrapers too. The Pirelli Tower in Milan is his, in addition to Sydney’s Australia Square and Montreal’s Place Victoria. Milan will be as far as I get this trip, though.

So expect a bit more concrete and a lot less steel over the next few weeks…