Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, who died at age 87 in January 1979, had the genius of an architect, the efficiency of an engineer and the ingenuity of a contractor. His work has probably been subjected to more critical public appraisal than that of any other designer. One of Nervi's first all-concrete buildings, the Cinema Augusto in Naples, was the subject of much criticism by contractors and architects, who thought that the structure would collapse for lack of proper support. The Cinema still stands, despite shelling during World War II.
Ferrocement was the material used in the smallest of three structures Nervi built for the 1960 Olympics in Rome: The Palazzo Dello Sport. The Palazzo, his favorite and probably his greatest achievement, consists of a flattened dome 330 feet in diameter, carried above superimposed galleries encircled by slim tapered peripheral columns that contain glazing. The building accommodates 14,000 spectators in three banks of seats. The topmost bank is designed as a balcony; its top floor cantilevers outward, roofing the main gallery and itself forming the upper gallery. Ribs on the underside give a lotus-like pattern to the gallery ceiling. The interior of the dome is a huge spreading flower, radiating from a central point of light. It has been said that Nervi's enthusiasm for concrete seemed more like that of a sculptor than of the immensely practical contractor he proved to be.