Nervi's Aesthetics and Technology in Building

Like artists, Engineers want to create beautiful words – when appropriate -  as well as satisfying the science of efficiency and the art of economy.  Nervi (1956) states that in order to do that, ones simply needs to work honestly.

Every improvement in the functionality and the technical efficiency of a product brings out an improvement in its aesthetic quality . . . there is no doubt that any product of high efficiency is always aesthetically satisfying. In the field of architecture, in which functional, statical, and economic needs are intimately mixed, truthfulness is an indispensable condition of good aesthetic results. [Nervi, 1956]

In addition, it is the engineer's personal ability that contributes to great works of structural art. The engineer that seeks personal excellence will see that transcend themselves into the built world – just like building with LEGOs as a kid, it just takes longer.

I remember visiting a project where I designed all the connections for a large box truss that supported four stories of concrete and spanned 100 feet. The erector and welder was proud to show me his work and described the installation, welds and details as a master craftsman would. He was not being self-serving—he was describing the work itself. He and I both knew that this was going to be covered up for no one else to see.  He was still deeply satisfied, as was I. I realized much later that the satisfaction was not really about the truss or even the workmanship (craft).  What he was really showing me was a manifestation of himself in the steel connection. The weld was beautiful and well-crafted, of course, and that was satisfying, too; but that is not really what he was feeling.  He was really showing me that he was a good human being; that he is quality just like the connection - he was virtuous.  The inanimate object was a reflection of him and it was beautiful. We can learn a great deal about how the outcome of our work is conceived in our minds the same way. While we are not particularly goal oriented, although we do see our work as a actively progressing towards "Quality" (in the present only - the future is unhealthy to think too much about). Just like this erector, we are not spectators. We like private concentration, working autonomously or in teams, and delivering quality work (not ourselves) to others.  The work is us, but that is our secret.  Maybe that is why virtue is the most important trait to engineers to contribute and create beautiful works.  Nervi thought so.

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