Reviving Pier Luigi Nervi’s art forms with additive manufacturing technology
Complete scale models of Nervi’s buildings reconstructed in stereolithography
More than a dozen scale models of Italian artist, Pier Luigi Nervi’s architectural masterpieces, reconstructed in stereolithography on Materialise Mammoth machines, are touring the globe over the next few years.
Ranging in size from 300 mm to 1 metre, Mammoth stereolithography provides a unique benefit of being able to produce a component in any shape without manual effort and with dimensions up to 2100 mm X 700 mm X 800 mm. This capability was particularly beneficial for this project which had a number of intricate and irregular shapes and sizes.
“Nervi’s designs are extremely suited to our techniques,” says Jeroen Moons, Project Manager for Materialise. “Art and design are very close cousins and Nervi’s structures are replicated well in our technique. Due to the fine layers and high quality of the Mammoth machines, we only needed to finish the models to a basic level. This allowed us to keep a maximum detail in Nervi’s creations.”
Elisabetta Margiotta Nervi agrees. She is the Executive Director of the Pier Luigi Nervi Research & Knowledge Management Project. In fact, Elisabetta’s husband is Nervi’s grandson.
I first learned about Materialise at a tradeshow in Milan when I was introduced to their additive manufacturing technologies. Their futuristic ideas and the endless possibilities behind these production processes immediately reminded me of Nervi’s work. At that point it was clear that I had to collaborate with this company in order to represent Nervi’s buildings in the way he would have wanted it.
Challenges led to creative solutions
While all the miniature representations demonstrated the ingenuity of the artist, some of the more impressive models offered challenges that called upon us to come up with creative techniques. Three designs in particular reveal the scope and complexity of Nervi’s skill and talent.
Aula delle Udienze in Vaticano: Putting the pieces together
Built out of 34 parts, this Aula is the most impressive reconstruction to date; all pieces fit together like a 3D puzzle with no gaps whatsoever. The entire structure (1152 mm X 454mm X 234 mm) is covered by a dish with large oval windows allowing light to enter.
Every single scale model, but this one in particular, required a true collaboration from start to finish. Before building each model, Materialise worked extensively with Francesco Romeo, Associate Professor of the Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering at the La Sapienza University of Rome.
To be more precise, it was his students who put in hours of hard work to modify the CAD files, taking into account several aspects to ensure that the parts fit after building the model. The complexity of the Aula delle Udienze had really put them to the test.
“To keep cost down for the customer who had a limited budget, we rescaled the model to 95%,” explains Jeroen. “While the difference was hardly noticeable in terms of the final product, there was a huge reduction in volume, significantly decreasing costs.”
Palazzetto dello Sport, Roma: Finding creative solutions to facilitate the gluing process
The Palazzetto, the most beautiful and interesting of all the structures, has an innovative dome design while continuous windows circle around the arena under the dome. The model of this sports arena measured 807 mm x 807 mm x408 mm.
One of the challenges with this specific building was to glue the huge hanging roof in the correct way. Therefore we designed and quickly built a provisional stereolithography support beam which was used to hold the roof in place while gluing the part on the lower section; it was as quick to remove afterwards.
Palazzo di Torino Esposizioni: Good judgment or a stroke of luck
Still a work in progress, the Palazzo di Torino Esposizioni (Pavilion B) scale model is a large complex construction made up of two separate buildings (one large and one small).
“Initially it was planned to build only one half of the huge roof section (711 mm X 1067 mm) It was also our intention, along with the desire of the customer, to use a white material and finally spray it white to coincide with the other sections of the replica,” recalls Jeroen. “As it turned out, we built the roof in a transparent material as it was the only machine that was available at that moment -- also the customer had no time to wait. The client appreciated the initiative we took and liked the transparent roof, which allows one to see more details inside the building than would have been possible with a painted roof.”
The advantage of this building is that it’s designed by an architect so the way the structure is built is strong in itself. This holds true for our scale model. Once again, this is proof of the close link between Nervi’ constructions and Materialise’s technologies.
More and more architects are starting to see the benefits of our additive manufacturing technologies which give them the chance to produce accurate and representative scale models of their buildings. We hope that the Nervi project inspires even more architects, and also other designers, to use our AM technologies as it offers them complete freedom of design and incredible customisation opportunities.