The American Academy in Rome announced the list of the 2013-2014 Rome Prize recipients this past week, and I could not be happier to be this years’s recipient of the Booth Family Prize in Historic Preservation and Conservation. I’ll be in residence there from September to March, continuing research on Nervi’s work with a particular eye toward preservation of his works. I have a small army of colleagues, friends, and family who have all supported the application process and who will be helping to get all of the logistics in order, and could not be more grateful for the team effort.
As I posted last year, the 1961 Palazzo Lavoro is in particularly grave condition, but Nervi’s work as a whole presents a good opportunity to make the case for preserving the more recent past. We think of works like his as being fundamentally “modern,” but the Palazzo, alongside the Rome Olympic works and most of Nervi’s built oeuvre is now well past the 50 year mark that used to automatically signal historic status, and still creeping up on the current 75 year mark. The debacle in Chicago over Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital is closer to home, and more dramatic, but the gradual transformation of many buildings from this era into hulking ruins is, to my mind, no less pressing than their potential demolition or replacement.
Anyway, that’s the activist portion of the project. I will also be putting together a set of essays that I hope will eventually become a book–a case study of Nervi’s designs as paradigm cases of the fluid integration of engineering, construction, and aesthetics. Commodity, firmness, and delight, anyone?
Thursday night’s award ceremony and reception was amazing–it is, of course, a fascinating group of scholars and artists, and I am looking forward to sharing quarters and mind space with them. And with a short extension through the weekend, we got to (finally!) see another quite brilliant example of art, science, and experience all woven elegantly into one:
update: Iowa State has put up a nice article here that offers a bit more detail, and some (prob. familiar to this crowd) Nervi images…