Pier Luigi Nervi's Aesthetics and Technology in Building Fifty Years Later

Thomas Leslie, Cristiana Chiorino, Elisabetta Margiotta Nervi

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Endowed in 1925, the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship in Poetry has been a signature award in the arts and humanities. Its mission, to recognize poetic expression across the widest range of the arts, has brought a provocative array of scholars, writers, and artists to Harvard Universitys campus to lecture; traditional poets such as T. S. Eliot (1932-33) and Robert Frost (1935-36) have held the post, but so have prose authors ranging from Thornton Wilder (1950-51) to Jose Luis Borges (1967-68). Musicians and art historians--Igor Stravinsky (1939-40) and Erwin Panofsky (1947-48), for instance--had shown just how broad and inclusive Harvard intended the professorship to be.But the invitation to Italys Pier Luigi Nervi to hold the position in 1961-62 must nonetheless have been surprising. Nervi was not a scholar, though he had by that point been a popular lecturer in architecture at the Universita di Roma for several years. He was a practitioner and a builder, with an engineering office along the Tiber in a building designed and built by an earlier incarnation of his firm, and an active contractors yard in the Magliana district of Rome, several miles downriver. These enterprises had built a national reputation in Italy for their abilities to design and construct long-span structures and factory buildings that set new marks for speed, low cost, and material efficiency. This was hardly the resume of a professor of poetry, yet the works designed and built by Nervis companies were also stunningly beautiful. Could one become, as Time magazine suggested of Nervi in 1957, a poet in concrete? Nervis true art lay in his ability to close the gap between art and technology, to create spaces that border on poetry without renouncing, in the translation of his inspiration into design and of design into construction, the rigorous methods of engineering. Rather, Nervis concrete poetry emphasized engineering logic with original and innovative embellishments.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of IASS Annual Symposia
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Pier Luigi Nervi
  • Reinforced Concrete


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