Pier Luigi Nervi, the structure of beauty: a major exhibition in Florence

From January 25, the Manifattura Tabacchi in Florence is hosting 'Pier Luigi Nervi. The Structure of Beauty,' an exhibition dedicated to the great engineer.

In Florence, from January 25, Manifattura Tabacchi will host a new stage of the Pier Luigi Nervi project. Architecture as Challenge, realized by the Pier Luigi Nervi Research and Knowledge Management Project Association (Brussels) and Laboratorio Nervi Politecnico di Milano (Lecco), co-produced by Manifattura Tabacchi, in partnership with Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the metropolitan city of Florence and the provinces of Pistoia and Prato. This is the Florentine leg of the exhibition celebrating the great Italian engineer: this new exhibition is entitled Pier Luigi Nervi and Florence, the Structure of Beauty and is part of a major traveling exhibition cycle. Thirty years after the death of Pier Luigi Nervi (Sondrio, 1891 - Rome, 1979), the exhibition recounts his work and personality, which have lost nothing of their offbeat modernity. A designer and at the same time a builder, Nervi emerges as a man of culture of his time and reveals himself to have been not only an architect and engineer, but a poet-architect and artist, an incredible innovator and shrewd impresario, a man of culture of his time in constant search of an absolute mastery of the technical means to infuse Beauty into the built environment.

The constant research carried out by Nervi during his long activity, with the aim of making architecture and engineering achieve artistic values equal to those of other arts, is evident from the models and documentation presented in this exhibition , which, thanks to the patrimony made available by the P.L. Nervi Association, promotes in Florence the cultural relevance he had in the history of our country.

The exhibition is composed of 12 sections, each focusing on an iconic work of the engineer’s creativity in addition to the model of Manifattura Tabacchi in Florence, selected by the international scientific committee chaired by Professor Carlo Olmo of the Polytechnic University of Turin and composed of representatives of numerous prestigious institutions including universities, museums and national and international cultural centers, has chosen to present Pier Luigi Nervi through the main iconic works. Each of them presents an aspect of his genius as a designer and builder, and all of them still testify to his essence: the beauty of forms and the brilliant implementation of the structural economy of materials. Among Nervi’s other works, the exhibition delves into the 1932 Berta Municipal Stadium, which established his prestige internationally in the Tuscan capital. The engineer began to express the full potential of his design: innovative capacity, style, but also entrepreneurial wisdom and economy that would mark his career and recognition abroad.

Included in the exhibition itinerary is the project for the transformation of the Manifattura Tabacchi in Florence, built between 1933 and 1940 to the design of Monopoly engineers, which presents architectural lines and structures of such modernity and elegance that they have led to speculation about the hand of Pier Luigi Nervi. The current recovery is being approached with material and figural respect for the property, in assiduous collaboration with the Superintendency, and addresses the well-known conceptual and methodological difficulties inherent in the conservation of modern architecture. The complex will be recovered according to a Masterplan resulting from successive contributions by Concrete, SANAA, Studio Mumbai and q-bic, which aims to preserve the industrial spirit of the historic architecture with contemporary interventions capable of enhancing the monumentality of the buildings and the unique quality of the spaces and materials. Particular attention is paid to the landscape design, entrusted to landscape architect Antonio Perazzi, where greenery is intended as a regeneration device that reappropriates space in the former cigar factory to create common areas that are welcoming, comfortable and conducive to gathering. The redevelopment project launched in 2016 aims to create a new neighborhood for the city and a center for contemporary culture, art and fashion that is complementary to the historic center, open to all and connected to the world.

Models, copies of the original drawings, an extensive photographic collection of construction site images and topical photos illustrate, chapter by chapter, Nervi’s entire creative journey and guide visitors to explore the main areas of his activity: from the Augustan Cinema-Theater in Naples, one of the works dearest to him; to the Unesco headquarters in Paris or the Vatican Hall of the Papal Audiences in the Vatican and the Stock Exchange Tower in Montreal, to arrive at the ’last realized project, the Italian Embassy in Brasilia, conceived by Nervi and his son Antonio in 1969 and a testimony to the international activity of the Nervi studio.

“There could not be a more suitable venue than the Manifattura Tabacchi to host this exhibition,” says Andrea Pessina, Soprintendente Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the metropolitan city of Florence and the provinces of Pistoia and Prato. “Not only because Florence is one of the places to where Nervi left important evidence of his work, but especially because this complex, thanks to the intelligent recovery and restoration work conducted by Aermont LLP and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, which we thank for promptly and generously accepting the proposal to hold this event here, is the most tangible proof of how it is possible to restore 20th-century architecture to its original beauty, while at the same time imagining for these buildings a new future for the benefit of an entire city and its citizens.”

“We were very pleased to accept the invitation of the Superintendent and the heirs to contribute to the popularization to the work of Pier Luigi Nervi by hosting the exhibition in our temporary spaces,” says Michelangelo Giombini, product development manager of Manifattura Tabacchi. “Manifattura Tabacchi is itself heir to the experience of this brilliant designer and entrepreneur and presents in the elegance of the structures and lines many typical features of his work. As usual, we wanted to intervene with an original contribution that would confront Nervi’s work, to add a contemporary counterpoint to the body of the exhibition and propose an unprecedented opportunity for suggestion and insight, between past and present.”

The exhibition, the result of cooperation between the Pier Luigi Nervi Research and Knowledge Management Project Association and Civa (Centre International pour la Ville, l’Architecture et le Paysage) in Brussels, in cooperation with MAXXI/Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo and CSAC/Centro Studi e Archivi della Comunicazione of theUniversity of Parma is co-produced by Manifattura Tabacchi, under the patronage of the City of Florence, University of Florence, Giovanni Michelucci Foundation, Order and Foundation of Architects of Florence, Docomomo Italia and Italian Society for the Restoration of Architecture.

Ph. Massimo Sestini

Pier Luigi Nervi, the structure of beauty: a major exhibition in Florence
Pier Luigi Nervi, the structure of beauty: a major exhibition in Florence

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.