Designed in Italy. Made in Australia.

12 July 2019
Through research, a series of original work and new documentation, the exhibition Designed in Italy. Made in Australia, will for the first time, showcase the comprehensive work developed during the 1960s and 70s by world-famous Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi.

Pier Luigi Nervi

Dr Paolo Stracchi, Lecturer in Architectural Technology from the School of Architecture, Design and Planning has been researching the design and construction of Harry Seidler’s iconic and ground-breaking building, Australia Square and the contribution made by Pier Luigi Nervi and his team.

Dr Stracchi’s research has focused on the contribution given by structural engineer and revolutionary Italian master builder, architect and artist Pier Luigi Nervi to the design and construction of Australia Square, and his application of new construction principles and methods.

During its build, the project was highly celebrated as the start of the new modernist movement in architecture and praised for its innovative design and technology. However Seidler’s circular design posed new engineering and architectural challenges. He therefore insisted that Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi be consulted due to his expertise in using concrete and structural design.

The result of this consultancy was the adoption for the first time in Australia of the Sistema Nervi (Nervi System) to shape the famous Nervi ceiling of Australia Square. The pioneering technique had previously been used in the construction of the world-famous Palazzetto dello Sport (1957). Along with the Nervi System, Nervi suggested the adoption of permanent precast column formworks to shape and build the tapering columns structurally featured in the most famous Australian tower.

Adopted for the first time in Australia for the Australian Square project,  this precast system not only transformed the ‘Cinderella’ formwork into a princess, but was also quickly adopted as the benchmark in the local construction field, going on to become the trademark for many buildings.

“Exploring the inevitable relation between the act of construction and architecture is my main focus,” said Dr Stracchi.

“I want to rediscover the traditional and historical construction techniques and aim to reinvent the same possibilities opened up by the new parametric digital tools, 3D printing techniques, and robotic fabrication.”

Dr Stracchi’s continuing research will investigate the nonna-mamma-figlia (granny-mum-daughter) fabrication system patented by Nervi, and adopted for the Nervi ceiling at Australia Square and for the lobby ceiling at the MLC Royal Theatre. These Australian ribbed ceilings plastically demonstrated Nervi’s unique and celebrated talent in working with and shaping concrete “the most beautiful material ever invented by man an authentic miracle”, in Nervi’s word.

The historical research and the initial stage of the parametric design and construction documentation is shown in the exhibition Designed in Italy. Made in Australia. The exhibition not only shares the story of, and fruitful collaboration between, Pier Luigi Nervi and Harry Seidler, but will also shed light on unexpected affinities between the Italian and Australian construction industries. It reveals the Roman and Milanese precedents used in modern Sydney, and an unlikely connection between an Italian factory and a revered Australian skyscraper. This exhibition pays tribute to the two men and their shared Australian legacy, casting light on its unexpected Italian affinities and celebrating it into the future.


Exhibition details:

Tin Sheds Gallery
The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning
148 City Road, Darlington
Dates: 11 July - 7 September 2019
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, 11am – 5 pm, Open Saturday 13 July, 9am - 3pm

Australia Square
264 George Street, Sydney
Dates: 18 September - 10 October 2019
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm


Seidler Architectural Foundation
Harry Seidler & Associates
Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia
Dexus and The GPT Group
Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney
Arturo Tedeschi computational design

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