I’ve been abroad the last couple of weeks, taking advantage of a Visiting Scholar position at the American Academy in Rome to finish acquiring and producing illustrations for the forthcoming Nervi book–more or less officially titled Beauty’s Rigor: Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi. I have a crack team of graduate students back home who are turning out the more interesting stuff–sequential images of components being fabricated and placed that really help to explain how these structures are all based on algorithmic methods as much as they are on structural principles. (We’re calling them IKEA drawings…) I’ve finalized the archival images with MAXXI, and this has given me time to sit in the Sid Bass studio up on the Academy’s fourth floor and just draw. It’s not quite a Prix du Rome experience–all Illustrator instead of 18 shades of india ink and giant easels–but this is still an inspiring place.
Today’s completed effort above in low-res. This is the Kursaal Restaurant in Ostia, one of my favorite excursions on an early reconnaissance trip in 2012. It’s a tiny seaside pavilion that’s part of a beach resort, and it’s a total gem. Nervi worked with Roman architect Attilio Lapadula on the design in 1950, which features a reverse dome tiled in his famous tavelloni. The roof is supported on a concrete stalk–and little else. A ring of columns and (originally) steel mullions did the work of balancing wind loads on the roof, which is an unusual sleight-of-hand for an engineer known for his adherence to “structural truth.”
Whatever. It’s beautiful, and it plays with expectations of structure while flooding the room with daylight from the horizon and from a large cantilevered eyebrow and light shelf. Fun to spend some time drawing through it and tracing Pier Luigi’s lines through the ceiling.