Pier Luigi Nervi
The building designed by Pier Luigi Nervi in Mantua for the Piedmont paper manufacturer Burgo, if analysed within the parabola of Nervi’s entire career, undoubtedly represents a singular work that became an icon of the resolution of a complex functional problem: the creation of single, 250-meter long space characterised by a 160-meter long uninterrupted façade, for the placement of the paper producing equipment. The result is a singular work of architecture capable of fully resolving the client’s functional requirements, and a forceful project that clearly stands out within the flat landscape of the Po’ Valley.
The building, in its final form, presents a primary supporting structure for the steel roof, designed by Gino Covre with Badoni. It is defined by two monumental, 50-meter tall frames in reinforced concrete, constructed by Nervi & Bartoli using the now standard system of permanent formwork, prefabricated on site. Each frame is characterised by an upper transversal element, some 35.6 meters in length, containing the anchor points for the cables used to suspend the roof, realised in assembled jointed flat bars that transfer loads to the distinctive “Y”-shaped perimeter pylons. The project, in addition to the building for the continuous paper machine, also includes a warehouse constructed using the characteristic system of orthogonal ribs, obtained by means of ferroconcrete formwork and mobile scaffolding, patented by Nervi in 1949.
The mega-structure for Burgo would remain a unicum in Nervi’s work. If the final image is the fruit of a formal experiment that remained an isolated example in the engineer’s architectural production, the procedure used for its realisation instead reassumes his development as a builder: the on-site creation of prefabricated elements, the use of permanent formwork, the ribbed slabs and mobile scaffolding are all a synthesis of an idea of building characterised by rationality, practicality and organisational intelligence.