A lecture by Micaela Antonucci and Gabriele Neri
The aim of this lecture is to shed light on the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town, an exceptional building designed by the famous Italian engineer and architect Pier Luigi Nervi (1891-1979), who is internationally considered as one of the masters of 20th-century reinforced concrete structures.
The first contacts between Nervi and the City of Cape Town started in 1964, but the project was approved in the following decade and was inaugurated in 1977. It offers various outstanding features.
On the one hand, the Good Hope Centre is one of Pier Luigi Nervi’s last works, featuring some of his most famous building techniques and architectural forms: i.e. the precast concrete roof, which was at that time the largest concrete cross vault in the world. On the other hand, the building had also a social and political value: when it opened to the public, it was supposed to be open to all races, raising the issue of discrimination in the entertainment field and the problem of multiracial audiences (what newspapers called “theatre apartheidâ€).
Conceived by Pier Luigi Nervi at the end of his glorious career, in collaboration with his son Antonio, his office and local architects Colyn & Mering, the Good Hope Centre can be considered a remarkable example of Italian design from the 1960s and 1970s. Its shape was at the same time modern and linked to the greatest Italian architecture of the past: the Good Hope Centre’s roof is, in fact, part of a long-lasting process of reinterpretation of the cupola, a building typology that characterized the history of Italian architecture from the Pantheon to Brunelleschi, from Michelangelo to Borromini, etc.
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About Michaela Antonucci:
Architect, PhD, she is Assistant Professor in History of Architecture at the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna. Since 2014, she’s a member of the Board of the Reseach PhD in Architecture of the University of Bologna and Coordinator of the Publishing series of the Department of Architecture of Bologna. In 2014 she obtained the National Scientific Qualification to function as Associate Professor.
She has taught History of Modern Architecture and History of Contemporary Architecture at the Universities of Roma Tre, Rome Tor Vergata, Genoa and Bononia.
She had studied Italian Reinassance architecture, focusing particularly on Rome and on the work of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger; on topics and protagonists of the Contemporary architecture, particularly on Otto Wagner and Pier Luigi Nervi.
In the years 2009-2010, she has been part of the organizing committee of the International Congress Cantiere Nervi. La costruzione di un’identit- (Building up an identity. Studies and researchs on Pier Luigi Nervi) (Bologna-Parma-Ferrara, November 2010).
She’s been the curator (with A. Trentin and T. Trombetti) of the travelling exhibition+book Pier Luigi Nervi. Gli stadi per il calcio (Pier Luigi Nervi. Football stadia) (Bononia-Cesena-Ravenna-Florence, November 2014 – October 2016) and the curator of the exhibition+book Pier Luigi Nervi Architetture per lo Sport (Pier Luigi Nervi’s Sports Facilities) (MAXXI – Museo delle Arti del XXI secolo, Rome; February – October 2016).
About Gabriele Neri:
Architect, PhD, he studied at the Milan Polytechnic and the FAUP of Porto (Portugal). Gained a PhD in History of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Polytechnic of Turin with a thesis on the Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi. He is Adjunct Professor of History of Design and Architecture at the Polytechnic of Milan (Italy) from 2011. He is researcher and teaching assistant at the Academy of Architecture of Mendrisio (Switzerland).
In 2017 he obtained the National Scientific Qualification to function as Associate Professor.
From 2016 he serves as co-curator and official of the Accademia di architettura for the planned exhibit “Louis Kahn and Veniceâ€, to be held in 2018 at the “Theatre of Architectureâ€ in Mendrisio (Switzerland).
Curator of several exhibitions in Italy and abroad, in 2014 he published the volume “Capolavori in miniatura. Pier Luigi Nervi e la modellazione strutturaleâ€ (“Miniature Masterpieces. Pier Luigi Nervi and Structural Modelingâ€). In 2014 he also curated an Anthology with Nervi’s writings and the re-release of his famous book “Scienza o arte del costruire?â€.
In 2015 he won the Second Research Grant from The Design History Foundation (Barcelona, Spain) and the Alfaro-Hofmann Collection (Valencia, Spain).
Among his books: “Caricature architettoniche. Satira e critica del progetto modernoâ€ (Quodlibet, 2015), focused on the relation between satire and architecture from 1850 onwards; “Umberto Riva. Interni e allestimentiâ€ (LetteraVentidue, 2017), focused on the work of the famous Milanese architect.
This research, curated by Micaela Antonucci (University of Bologna, Italy) and Gabriele Neri (Universit- della Svizzera italiana, CH), is based on the material of the Pier Luigi Nervi’s and Studio Nervi’s Archive, which is part of the Collection of the Centro Archivi MAXXI Architettura at MAXXI – Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome.