Library day yesterday. Having earned beer money working in Avery Library during grad school I am always eternally grateful for library assistants who are willing to talk visiting scholars through the peculiarities of each collection, and Roma Tor Sapienza was no exception. In addition to finally getting my hands on Nervi’s rare 1945 book Scienza o Arte di Costruire? they had an (almost) complete collection of Casabella going back to the beginning, in the early 1930s, and–most surprising–a complete collection of L’Architettura, which was the official magazine of the National Fascist Syndicate of Architects.
It’s a slightly uncomfortable thing to page through, but necessary and of course absolutely fascinating. Nervi’s stadium in Florence, finished in 1932, made the cover of that year’s March issue, and it seems to have represented something of the dynamism and energy that the regime paid lip service to–even while wrapping structurally innovative forms like this in heavy-handed classicism outside.
That’s all for another post…in the meantime, Casabella, which wasn’t short on vaguely propagandist exhortations itself, had this to say about Nervi’s design and Nervi & Nebbiosi’s construction, through critic Pier Maria Bardi. Describing the structural expression within and the fascist wrapper outside (there to the left and yes, that’s the same building), Bardi seems to nail it:
There has been some controversy back and forth between architects and engineers to determine whether the [stadium’s] architecture was of relevance, whether it was primary or secondary: one way as another losing time. But the idle discussion serves to clarify that good construction does not require the submission of school papers: whoever has the sentiment to build is a constructor, and can be as a graduate engineer or a graduate architect, or even a simple foreman. What matters is the understanding, with the inspiration of his time, of the responsibilities and the art of raising the walls. “
The time’s “inspiration” was troubled, but certain things about the stadium seemed to resist the political message of the facade, especially that elegant roof…