OK, so I haven’t been chained to the desk all week. I spent a good afternoon at Roma 2 University at Tor Vergata on Monday listening to graduate students present their research work on the history of Italian structural engineering as part of the SIXXI project. They were presenting to Spanish Construction History superstar Pepa Cassinello, and I was honored to be invited to tag along.
This is an amazing initiative–worth checking out. Sergio Poretti and Tullia Iori have assembled a great team of students and a growing body of work that explores the Italian contribution to 20th century engineering. Nervi is part of it, of course, but only the best known of a long lineage of engineers who developed theories for reinforced concrete frames and shells beginning as early as the late 19th century. The topics going on there range from looking at the academic laboratories that began around then all the way up to the major infrastructure projects of the “Italian Miracle” in the 1950s and 1960s. And there’s one project that looks at the globalization that took place from the 1970s on, after which it’s hard to identify a genuinely Italian strain in the engineering here.
As always, I came away with a small note pad filled with new names and examples. Silvano Zorzi, who I’ve mentioned before, but also other figures who contributed to the development of a genuine Italian School. The Autostrade del Sole, the highway built from Milan to Naples in the 1960s, is its own story; built in small segments by individual contractors, it’s a collection of amazing viaducts and bridges, arched during the first decade of construction, mostly prestressed during the latter years for reasons that had as much to do with the Italian economy and twenty percent inflation.
A great afternoon, fantastic work and a great conversation afterwards over calamari and good wine. All good Construction History events should conclude like that…
But seriously. I am working here.