Beauty’s Rigor

LeslieF17Available today, at least according to the printer’s schedule.  Very happy to formally announce that Beauty’s Rigor: Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi is out in the world after five very enjoyable years of research, travel, writing, and editing.

Longtime readers will know much of its contents.  The book makes the argument that, while Nervi has long been appreciated as a structural engineer, his ‘other’ career, as a contractor who actually built most of his projects, played an important role in his building’s aesthetics, and particularly in the striking patterns that impart such a fine grain and scale to his roofs.  Nervi worked with small teams of laborers, often unskilled, and had to adopt what I call algorithmic processes–carefully coordinated sequences of simple, easily repeated actions–to actually construct his designs.  The discipline this instilled in his forms, and the grids and spirals that this imprinted on his buildings, distinguished his work from other thin-shell builders of the 1950s and 1960s.

Many, many people to thank for their support, advice, and enthusiasm over the course of this project, in particular colleagues who shared time and space with me at the American Academy in Rome during 2013-2014, the many Nervi scholars in Italy and elsewhere who generously shared ideas and research with me, the Department of Architecture and the College of Design here at Iowa State who supported a year-long sabbatical to do the research and site visits, and the staff of our Rome Program who let me sleep in the attic of our studio there during a preliminary visit in 2012.

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