Almost none of the currently available studies on the life and works of the celebrated architect and engineer Pier Luigi Nervi (1891-1979) mention his involvement with the African continent. This is a surprising omission, given Studio Nervi’s intensive and complicated connections with Africa. Between 1964 and 1980, the Studio was involved in around forty projects in the continent, including significant built works as well as many initiatives which, although remaining on paper, reveal a surprising mosaic of relations with the most disparate clients and governments, in South Africa, Ivory Coast, Libya, Congo, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Tanzania and Algeria. How can this historiographical lack be explained? What were the roles Pier Luigi and his sons played in these projects as compared to previous decades? To what extent did these projects still reflect Nervi’s unmistakable “style”? How innovative were they as compared to his earlier work? How did Nervi and his sons deal with the specific conditions of postcolonial Africa? This talk will explore the work of Studio Nervi in Africa, showing the complex intertwining of professional, political, social, economic and cultural relations, in a period in which the postcolonial identity of the continent and its architecture are redefined.
Gabriele Neri is an Italian architectural historian, curator and architect. He is currently Mâitre d’enseignement et de recherche at the Academy of Architecture of the Università della Svizzera italiana in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Since 2011 he has been adjunct professor of History of Design and Architecture at the Polytechnic of Milan, Italy. He holds a Ph.D. in History of Architecture and Urban Planning (Polytechnic of Turin, Italy, 2011). Neri is the author of Capolavori in miniatura. Pier Luigi Nervi e la modellazione strutturale (2014) and Pier Luigi Nervi in Africa (2021). He is also the curator of the first anthology with Nervi’s writings (2014). His published monographs include Umberto Riva. Interiors and Exhibitions (2021) and La Colonia Olivetti di Brusson (2021). He is currently a Weinberg Fellow in Architectural History and Preservation of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University, New York with a research project entitled “Graphic Satire and the Public Perception of Architecture: A Missing Genre”.
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