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Pier Luigi Nervi

(1891—1979) Italian engineer and architect

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Italian engineer and architect. A pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete, Nervi combined the roles of architect, engineer, entrepreneur, and academic to an unusual extent. His many famous buildings include the Pirelli skyscraper in Milan.

Born in Sondrio, Lombardy, he obtained his civil engineering degree at the University of Bologna and then worked in a firm of architects who specialized in reinforced concrete. After serving as an officer in the Italian Engineering Corps during World War I, he set up his own partnership as a consulting engineer. He became a professor in the faculty of architecture at the University of Rome in 1947 and remained there until 1961. His first major building was the communal stadium in Florence (1930–32), with a cantilever roof and unusual spiral staircase; he then won a competition for a series of aircraft hangars, for which he developed his lattice vault of precast concrete beams (1936–40). In 1948 he designed the Turin Exhibition Hall, using corrugated concrete to form the vault lattice. The grid vault was also a feature of the Chianciano spa (1952) and of the two circular Olympic stadiums in Rome (1960). In 1953 he cooperated with Marcel Breuer and Zehrfuss in the construction of the UNESCO secretariat in Paris. Perhaps his best-known building is the elegant Pirelli skyscraper in Milan (1958), with its thirty-two cantilevered floors. His last building was the San Francisco cathedral (1970).

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