That’s a genuine Nervi there–the last of his ferrocemento boat hulls, built for his family in 1972. And that’s one of Italy’s leading construction historians, Sergio Poretti, to the right there telling me about it.
Prof. Poretti and Tulia Iori run the construction history program at Roma 2 Tor Vergata, and they very graciously hosted me last week after we met in Wroclaw at the IASS symposium last month. Their program is astonishing, using history to teach structures to engineers, not just architects, and the work they’ve done both researching and preserving local Nervi works has been critical to raising awareness and keeping some of his smaller projects alive in the face of development and sheer lack of familiarity.
In particular, Iori led the restoration of Nervi’s Magliana warehouse last year–apparently right after I got into it–against incredible odds, which has probably saved the building for the immediate future despite threats of development. (More later on this, as she’s conveyed some good information about what else exists on the site…) That’s a full-scale mockup of the early ferrocemento system used at Magliana, and similar to the formula used for the Turin Halls in the late 1940s. Their student work is amazing–scale models of key Italian bridges and structures of the 20th century, all done out of intricate paper and cast plaster.
Poretti’s book, Italian Modernisms. Architecture and Construction in the Twentieth Century, has just come out in English, and it makes a convincing case for the role of construction in the development of important styles and types in the country over the last century–in particular making connections between the autarchic policies of Fascism and the architecture that resulted. It also covers a number of Italian engineers and builders that were new names to me–including the Viadotto Sfalassa, there to the left, a SCI-TECH-ready example of simply supporting a beam in the simplest, most elegant way possible, and the Ponte Pietro Nenni, done with Luigi Moretti, that carries the Metropolatana over the Tiber just north of the Piazza del Popolo. (Ran under it this morning as a sort of tribute).
Great stuff, and kind of thrilling to see a program that combines history as a pedagogical method so well. They’ve invited me back for a student-led symposium later in the month, which should be a good afternoon…