The Palazzetto dello Sport: Elements, Combinations, and a Philosophy of Congruence

Kyle Vansice, Thomas Leslie

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Pier Luigi Nervi designed and constructed domes and vaults throughout his career, all of them unique variations on a basic theme. The advent of ferrocemento allowed him to create shells of an unprecedented thinness as in the case of the Palazzetto dello Sport. Yet the associated advantage of material efficiency became a liability as its geometry and the shells minimal cross-sectional depths left them susceptible to compressive buckling. Other issues arose due to the geometric proportioning of the dome, and the location and magnitude of hoop stresses that arose from the location of the lateral thrust resisting system. In Nervis work however, it is impossible to decouple concerns for construction from design. The development of the Palazzetto like many of his domes and vaults was governed by the short amount of time allowed for construction, as well as by material limitations and Nervis use of pre-fabrication. It is this deep connection through which construction and design became integrally dependent to each other a connection which is outwardly expressed that defines Nervis philosophy.This paper summarizes these concerns to reveal the congruence between Nervis philosophy and design methodology in design and construction. Nervi used a basic palette of element types across multiple domes and vaults for various reasons. This paper orders the use of these elements within a coherent set of design and construction theories and principles, finding a consistent theme throughout very different projects. Using finite element analysis alongside an explanation of construction processes and history, the Palazzetto dello Sport serves as a primary forensic case study. This project is analyzed to express the architectural concerns that drove this range of element types and their combinations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of IASS Annual Symposia
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Nervi
  • structural behavior
  • shell
  • pre-fabrication
  • finite-element
  • construction
  • congruence
  • analysis
  • Palazzetto dello Sport


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