Mantua plant

Construction and extension, 1962

Seen side on the Mantua paper mill looks very much like an enormous suspended bridge. Even the water purifiers have been designed as monumental fountains to blend in beautifully with the surrounding landscape. Nervi combined the highest levels of engineering and architecture in this project, developing his experimental and researched theories on reinforced concrete, used as ductile "molten stone".

Requirements. The structure needed to support and house the largest continuous paper machine in Italy: covering a distance of over 100 m. the machine transforms pulp into newspaper which is then wound onto large bobbins at a speed of almost a thousand metres per minute. There were to be no obstacles along the entire length of the building that would impede the positioning of the machine and the project was also required to take into consideration a second and possible third machine of similar dimensions in the future.

Solution: the first idea was to construct the building as though it were a bridge covering the structure but the cost of the foundations would have been too expensive so Nervi designed two independent systems: a base on two levels to support the paper machine and all the production systems with a roof at a height of 72 ft. consisting of a steel deck suspended by four steel cables and two side cantilevers each of 140 ft.". A façade of glass interlaced with steel runs between the base and the roof for the entire length of the structure. Innovative in both design and technique, this project signalled Burgo’s entry onto the international market: Nervi was at that time one of the most prestigious designers in the world, internationally renowned for his invention of ferro-cement and amazing construction designs.


Pier Luigi Nervi

Pier Luigi Nervi (1891 – 1979) began practicing civil engineering towards the mid 1920’s after brief period of collaboration with the Society for Concrete Construction in Bologna. He went on to play a leading role in the debate regarding modern architecture in Italy. A renowned expert on reinforced cement, as well as defending its use he began absorbing experiments and registered numerous patents which led to the perfectioning of a new way conceiving and constructing thin membranes, based on prefabrication and techniques in using ferro-cement (1943 Patent).
During this period he designed and constructed a number of buildings that were fundamental to the evolution of Italian architecture: The Municipal Stadium in Florence (1930-32), praised internationally not only as a feat of engineering but also for its design and economy; airplane hangars in Orvieto (1935) and Orbetello (1939).
In 1945, together with Bruno Zevi, a critic of “classicising” modern architecture, Luigi Piccinato, Mario Ridolfi and others, he became one of the founders of the Association for Organic Architecture based in Rome.
Soon after World War II, Nervi designed and built the Exhibition Building, in Turin, Italy, (1949) where all the research he had performed in previous years came to fruition. In the years that followed, in collaboration with his three sons and other architects, he realized important construction throughout the world:
UNESCO headquarters in Paris (1953-58) The Pirelli Tower in Milan (1954-1960), Olympic Stadium in Rome (1957-59) Palazzo del Lavoro “Italia ’61” in Turin (1960-61), George Washington Bridge Bus Station in New York City (1960-62), Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican City (1964), Tour de la Bourse in Montreal (1964), Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco, California (1966-71).
Cecco Mariniello