Pier Luigi Nervi

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Pier Luigi Nervi
BirthplaceSondrio, Italy
EducationUniversity of Bologna

Nervi, Pier Luigi

Nervi, Pier Luigi (pyĕr lwo͞oēˈjē nĕrˈvē), 1891–1979, Italian architectural engineer. Nervi is considered one of the foremost European architectural designers of the 20th cent. His first large work, the Giovanni Berta stadium at Florence (1930–32), won world acclaim for the daring and beauty of its cantilevered stairs and roof. Nervi experimented with prefabricated elements in the construction of the Italian air force base at Orbetello (1939). In the mid-1940s he developed ferro-cemento, a strong, light material composed of layers of steel mesh grouted together with concrete. With this material he was able to achieve complicated building units for vast and complex structures. His innovations made possible the intricate and beautiful buildings that have brought him world renown. Especially outstanding are his exposition halls at Turin (1949, 1950); the railway station, Naples (1954); and three Olympic buildings in Rome (1956–59). Nervi has also collaborated in such projects as the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Paris (1953–57) and the George Washington Bridge bus station, New York City (1961–62).


See his New Structures (tr. 1963) and Aesthetics and Technology in Building (tr. 1965); study by A. L. Huxtable (1960).

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Nervi, Pier Luigi

Italian civil engineer; he was best known for reinforced-concrete structures. He created a structure for the Exhibition Hall, Turin, Italy (1947), and the Palazzo Dello Sports (1958), in Rome; where an immense concrete dome floats over the space.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nervi, Pier Luigi


Born June 21, 1891, in Sondrio, Lombardy. Italian engineer and architect; the first to use ferrocemento (cement sprayed on a fine wire mesh).

From 1908 to 1913, Nervi was a student in the engineering faculty of the University of Bologna. In 1946 he became an instructor at the University of Rome. Nervi often experiments with modern building materials and the structural units for which they are used, seeking to bring out innate possibilities for artistic expression.

Between 1929 and 1932, Nervi built a stadium in Florence, emphasizing its structural elements (reinforced-concrete pillars supporting the stands, spiral staircases, abutments for the cantilever roof) and achieving an expressive spatial composition. From 1935 to 1940, while building aircraft hangars in Orvieto and Orbetello, the architect developed a new system of construction using prefabricated uninterrupted roof spans made from rhomboid reinforced-concrete components.

In 1946, Nervi began to study the possibilities of ferrocemento. He was the first to design a thin-walled span of ferrocemento elements to roof a building. He first used such a span in 1948 and 1949 in his design of an exhibition hall in Turin. The rhythmic patterns of the ceiling and the innovative canted ceiling supports bring out the hidden interaction of forces and form an austere and refined composition.

Nervi’s subsequent architectural work involved the perfecting of ferrocemento shells and a search for various architectural forms and designs. His best works of the 1950’s and 1960’s combine the plastic expressiveness of crude ferrocemento and reinforced-concrete structural elements with a bold and clear design based on precise engineering computations and with a clear and functionally effective spatial organization. Works from this period include the Palazzetto dello Sport in Rome, which has a shallow dome resting on Y-piers; the Palace of Labor in Turin (1961, with architect A. Nervi), which has innovative “umbrella-like” domes on massive pillars; the UNESCO building in Paris (1957, with architects M. L. Breuer and B. Zehr-fuss), whose conference hall has corrugated reinforced-concrete walls and ceiling; and the 32-story Pirelli Building in Milan (1956–60, with architect G. Ponti).


Costruire correttamente. Milan, 1955. (Abridged Russian translation,
Stroit‘pravil’no. . . . Moscow, 1956.)
Nuove strutture. Milan, 1963.


Ivanova, E. K., and R. A. Katsnel’son. P’er Luidzhi Nervi. Moscow, 1968.
Argan, G. C. Pier Luigi Nervi. Milan, 1955.
Huxtable, A. L. Pier Luigi Nervi New York, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Architectural entries include not only enshrined figures such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Andrea Palladio, but also important innovators such as Pier Luigi Nervi, whose design of the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal in New York embodies both the practical and the aesthetic aspects of construction, and Renzo Piano, whose thoughtful additions to the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, complement Richard Meier's distinctive original design.
It is a circular covered arena designed in 1959 by Marcello Piacentini with the great engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, who covered the space with an elegant ribbed dome of reinforced concrete, resting on a dramatic framework of slanting piers.
What one longs for is the quality that Italian Pier Luigi Nervi calls 'the intuitive sense of structure'.