Grattacielo Pirelli:
Scraping the Skies of Italy

Wed, Jul 26, 2023

Image courtesy of Marko Pogacnik

Completed in 1960, Milan’s Pirelli Tower, or Grattacielo Pirelli, was the tallest building in the Northern Italian city. Designed by the leading Italian modernist Giò Ponti in collaboration with the renowned structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, the Pirellone, or “Big Pirelli," was constructed of concrete, like nearly all Italian and European high-rises. Join us on July 26 at 4pm ET (2 hours earlier than our usual start time) for a talk by Marko Pogacnik, a professor at the University Iuav Venezia, on the Grattacielo Pirelli and the postwar Italian skyscraper.

Our series In Situ: The Modern Concrete Skyscraper turns the spotlight from the U.S. to Europe. As Pogacnik will illustrate, the war-ravaged city of Milan in the 1950s witnessed a strong desire for urban renewal, manifested in the construction of a series of tall buildings: Torre Breda 1950-55; Torre Velasca 1955-58; and Torre Galfa 1956-59. At 32 stories and 127m/417 ft., the outstanding building of this postwar boom in both height and artistic achievement was the Pirelli Tower. In it, architect Giò Ponti and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, with Arturo Danusso, sought to establish a distinctive Made-in-Italy skyscraper that abandoned the standard American approach of the steel frame in favor of the use of reinforced concrete in the form of heavy partitions and expressive structure.

Professor Pogacnik will illustrate the modernist principles propounded by Giò Ponti and the inspired collaboration with Nervi and Danusso. After his presentation, he will converse with Tom Leslie, author of Beauty's Rigor: Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi (2017).

Marko Pogacnik

Marko Pogacnik is Full Professor at the University Iuav Venezia. He has investigated the links between Engineering and Architecture, one of his main scientific interests, in the works of: Gottfried Semper, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Adalberto Libera, and Carlo Scarpa. He was Visiting Professor at the University Innsbruck, TU Dortmund, and TU Kaiserslautern, among others.

Thomas Leslie, FAIA

Thomas Leslie is Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he researches the integration of building sciences and arts, both historically and in contemporary practice. He is the author of Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934 and its sequel Chicago Skyscrapers, 1934-1986 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2013 and 2023).


Marko Pogacnik's presentation begins after introductions by Museum Director Carol Willis and Prof. Thomas Leslie, who afterward engages in conversation with Pogacnik.