SCI-TECH credo

National holiday here, and the entire Academy seems to be moving slowly after last night’s Halloween party.  So I’ve been in the basement translating old Nervi articles from Casabella.  Ernesto Rogers gave him plenty of page space in the 1950s, and it’s some of his best writing–occasionally calling out contemporaries for their ‘anti-static’ architecture.  Brilliant stuff.

Among other great quotes:

“Any structure, especially a complex one, lends itself– if it is deeply understood and felt–to quick and simple static calculations that require no mathematical developments, which are always too long, unnecessarily polarizing, and even counter-productive in the delicate, essentially inventive, phase of concept design. I therefore believe that the study of statics and construction science should be conducted in schools of architecture very differently than in engineering schools. Diversity should not mean superficiality, but deepening intuitive, intimate understanding and synthesizing, in simple first approximation formulas and processes of mathematical computation. ”  

 “Espressione architettonica e tecnica costruttiva,” Casabella, no. 299.  November, 1965. 38.

I love it when AIA gold medalists write my pedagogy statements for me…

3 thoughts on “SCI-TECH credo

  1. Maybe I’m reading my biases into a statement by another, but one semi-poisonous result of the cult of “architectural honesty” is the belief that structure should be easily readable. Even in small buildings, structural action is often obscured by the very architecture that makes the building interesting.

    If you want a readable, mathematically pretty structure, look at a bridge or a transmission tower. Structure in buildings – which is to say structure in coordination with architecture – is secondary* to architectural design. Architects should do what they want without worrying about structural design (which is not say without worrying about structural form) and let us engineers do our job of assisting.

    *I’d even say “subservient” except that you don’t need a swelled head.


    • I like “subservient,” but I know better…

      I think you could expand this a great good deal and say simply that any building ought to explain why it’s there, how it works, and how it’s put together to some degree. Nervi’s buildings are best where “why it’s there” is simplest–to house a really *&$@ing big space–and more of the building can “speak” to its mechanics. When he got caught up in complicated architectural functions (even a high rise), his ability to design clearly reading buildings went south in a hurry.

      All to say that structure is one element of any building’s ‘story.’


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s