Pier Luigi Nervi: Art and Science of Building
October 1, 2021 — February 27, 2022
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Norfolk’s greatest modern building: Scope Arena. Designed by renowned Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi in collaboration with local architectural firm Williams and Tazewell, its soaring struts lift the dome and paradoxically let light in from below, not above as in traditional domed structures. Scope exploited the extraordinary strength and flexibility of the astonishing new material of mesh-reinforced concrete and remains the largest thin-shell dome in the US. The civic center was intended to be the crown of the urban renewal project that profoundly altered the city over the course of several decades after World War II.
The first televised Olympics were those in Rome in 1960, during which millions of Americans saw the mesmerizing interior of Nervi’s masterpiece, the Palazetto dello Sport. This inspired city planners and civic leaders to engage Nervi, its architect, to design the Norfolk arena and adjacent concert hall. The design of the dazzling, mandala-like pattern of Scope’s ceiling was born of necessity. Nervi developed the thin-shell cement dome coffer panels to cope with postwar equipment shortages. The elegant exterior struts and cast ceiling panels are virtuoso examples of concrete casting. The building ranks among the most superb examples of brutalist (raw exposed concrete) architecture in the United States. Nervi was directly inspired by ancient domed structures like the Pantheon in Rome and the ancient technique of concrete used to make that structure.
This exhibition will follow Nervi’s career as an architect in Italy through many projects, including airplane hangars, cathedrals, exhibit halls, and skyscrapers, giving visitors an understanding of the unique architectural achievement of Scope and its place in the history of modern architecture.
The exhibition coordinated by PLN Comunicarch Associates.