Studio at the American Academy in Rome
Model in process
Time lapse of assembly process
Open studios at the American Academy in Rome
Open studios at the American Academy in Rome

Open Source NERVI: Independent Research at the American Academy in Rome

Rome Prize 2012

The Open Source NERVI project emerges from an interpretive architectural analysis and material / historical research pursued during the 2011-12 Rome Prize fellowship at the American Academy in Rome within the fellowship topic: New Vectors of Liquid Stone: Speculations on the material innovations of Pier Luigi Nervi and the Roman Tradition.

The research focuses on the material, structural, and geometrical practices of Pier Luigi Nervi, with a specific analytic focus on the Palazzetto dello Sport, built for the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Through a close reading of the geometric, material and construction techniques, a series of provocative architectural questions surrounding the logic of material organization, space and time practices emerge.

The history of architectural innovation arrives as a material choreography unfolding according to a diverse set of pressures and demands driven by circumstances of technique, economy and social identity. As a physical analysis, an interpretive tectonic model was developed from experiments with industrial vellum. On one level, an exercise in technical and economic logic, on another, in material and structural performance. The primary idea was to unpack and recode Nervi’s work as a logic of innovation in technique and application.

A transformation of the exact structural diagram in alternative materials has lead to the development of an interlocking double skin system which is poised to be developed further at a larger scale in order to confront the specificity of potential full scale building material applications. Materials such as carbon fiber, recycled plastic composites, recycled wood composites are being explored. The ongoing development goals for the project are to advance the design, structural performance, manufacturing and assembly strategies for various material alternatives through an adaptation of the double skin structural shell system.

Nervi: Reflected ceiling plan
Geometry and systems logic: Open Source NERVI
Geometry and systems logic: Open Source NERVI
Geometry and systems logic: Open Source NERVI
Working prototype studies
CNC paper cut building unit prior to manipulation, Z-tab cuts indicate interlock point with counter rotational layer
Several construction units pre-folded and interlocked with adjacent units

The Open Source NERVI project, is a simultaneously an analytical study of Nervi’s building systems approach and a provocation of open source building system for a range of applications. The systems logic diagram and drawings examine the possibility of translating Nervi’s material approach into a folded digital template for flat sheet material. Ideally, the source code could be shared for further refinement and implementation based on multiple scales and applications.

Photography: EASTON COMBS