Renowned Italian Engineer and Architect, Pier Luigi Nervi's Works Presented at UQAM Centre de Design, Montreal

The UQAM Centre de Design presents the work of Pier Luigi Nervi, an acclaimed protagonist of twentieth-century engineering and architecture. The exhibition started at November 24, 2021 will run till February 6, 2022.


Pier Luigi Nervi, Small Sports Complex, Rome, Detail of the ceiling, 1956, Photo credit: Photo by Mario Carrieri, courtesy Pier Luigi Nervi Project, Brussels

Working toward the synthesis of art and construction science, art historian Nikolaus Pevsner described Nervi as "the most brilliant artist in reinforced concrete of our time." Constructed around the globe, Nervi’s buildings belong to a spectacular period of structural and architectural innovation and symbolize the achievements of Italian engineering in the aftermath of World War II. Nervi designed and built iconic structures such as the Small Sport Palace (1958) for the Olympic Games in Rome, the Labour Palace in Turin (1960), and the Pirelli Tower in Milan (1960) with the architect Gio Ponti. Another of Nervi’s major projects, one that directly connects the engineer to Montreal, is the Place Victoria Tower (1964), designed in collaboration with the architect Luigi Moretti.


Pier Luigi Nervi, Palazzo del Lavoro, Turin, Detail of a pillar, 1959, Photo credit: Photo by Mario Carrieri, courtesy Pier Luigi Nervi Project, Brussels

An exhibition in two parts

Entitled Pier Luigi Nervi: Master Designer / Builder, the Centre de Design presents a two-part exhibition. The first is an adapted version of the traveling exhibition Pier Luigi Nervi – Architecture as Challenge, curated by Cristiana Chiorino, and presented for the first time in Brussels in 2010. The exhibition examines the long career of the engineer, from the 1920s through to the 1970s. It is the product of a multidimensional research project that brought together a large team of researchers with the goal of retracing the various contributions of Nervi's work. The result is a complex historical fresco in which Nervi's revolutionary building techniques are closely linked to post-war Italy and international social and political developments, coupled with an exploration of the rich cultural and scientific relationships in which Nervi evolved.


Pier Luigi Nervi, Municipal Stadium, Florence, Detail of the spiral staircase, 1932, Photo credit: Photo by Mario Carrieri, courtesy Pier Luigi Nervi Project, Brussels

The second part of the exhibition is a presentation conceived and curated by Carlo Carbone and Réjean Legault, professors at UQAM École de design. Sistema Nervi focuses on five little-known experimental projects that were carried out using three central elements of Nervi’s production system: the material, the mold, and repetition. The combination of these elements led to the invention of a composite material: ferrocement. The use of ferrocement opened the way for the development of the tavellone—the formwork that was at the basis of Nervi’s brilliant shells and domes—which remains without a doubt the engineer’s most significant contribution to the constructive culture of reinforced concrete. Bringing together historic photographs, models by UQAM students, and analysis of the five Nervi projects, this presentation underscores the engineer’s atypical approach to design in the production of the built environment.


Pier Luigi Nervi, UNESCO Headquarters in Paris Drawing of the longitudinal section showing the deformation pattern of the structure for vertical loads, Plan of the roof, 1953, Photo credit: Courtesy MAXXI, Archivio Pier Luigi Nervi, Rome

Related Events 

Public lecture by Professor Thomas Leslie, author of Beauty’s Rigor, Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi (University of Illinois Press, 2017)
  • Date: 2 December 2021
  • Hour: 6:00 PM
  • Mode: via Zoom
Colloquium: Architects and engineers, problem solving by mediating experimentation and standardization

* Vaccination passport required

  • Date: 3 December 2021
  • Hour: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Place: Centre de design of UQAM, 1440, rue Sanguinet, Montréal. Métro Berri-UQAM
  • Reservation required
Conference on the challenges related to the preservation of Nervi’s works
  • Date: 28 January 2022
  • Hour: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Place: Place Victoria, 800, rue du Square-Victoria, Montréal

Pier Luigi Nervi, Municipal Stadium, Florence Detail of the spiral staircase, 1932, Photo credit: Photo by Mario Carrieri, courtesy Pier Luigi Nervi Project, Brussels


Pier Luigi Nervi, Italian Embassy, Brasilia, Pillars of the ground floor, 1969, Photo credit: Photo by Mario Carrieri, courtesy Pier Luigi Nervi Project, Brussels

About UQAM Centre de design

The UQAM Design Center is one of the only venues in Canada to present exhibitions that illustrate historical and current trends in the fields of graphic, industrial, and urban design, as well as in architecture and fashion. 

Founded in 1981 on the initiative of professors from the UQAM School of Design, the Design Center has produced approximately 350 exhibitions, aimed at design professionals, students, and the general public. It has thus contributed for the past 40 years to the development of a design culture, and to its local and international influence, through the prestigious exhibitions that it hosts, as well as through the creation of numerous traveling exhibitions, presented in more than ten of countries, mainly dedicated to the recognition of Quebec design.

Pier Luigi Nervi: Master Designer-Builder

Dates24 November 2021 to 6 February 2022
PlaceCentre de design de l’UQAM
Official Opening24 November at 6:00 pm
Opening HoursWednesday - Sunday, Noon – 6:00 PM
CuratorsCarlo Carbone, Réjean Legault, and Cristiana Chiorino