Near the end of last year, Paul and I went to the Good Hope Centre to see the Pet Shop Boys, who were touring as part of the Sonar 2014 festival. What a great show it was, but for me, the big discovery of the night was all to do with the venue.
Just about every Capetonian has passed the Good Hope Centre on Sir Lowry Road, in its non-enviable position just next to an overpass, in possibly the windiest road the city has to offer. Most people I know place this building on an aesthetic scale that runs from inconsequential to yuk!
But when we walked into this vast space on the night, up the stairs to the VIP lounge (oh yes, indeed!) I felt I was walking into some kind of modern relic from a now-outdated future. Granted, it was beautifully lit, and the confetti cannon was a thrilling touch, but even without those embellishments, it was clear that that massive, yet delicate, structural concrete structure is a space with weight, mood and interest. I loved it.
Intrigued, we did a bit of Googling, and turned up the fact that the Good Hope Centre, built in 1976, was designed by a world-renowned structural engineer and architect called Pier Luigi Nervi. His particular interest and specialisation was in thin shell structural concrete.
Take a look at some of the other buildings designed or co-designed by Nervi, and then see if you, like me, are willing to shift your perceptions, and to review your opinion of our poor, reviled Good Hope Centre.
Military aircraft hangar – Orvieto, Italy, 1935 (interesting article about their design, structure and demise here)
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption – San Francisco, 1967 (collaborating with Pietro Belluschi)
Palazzo del Lavoro – Turin, 1961
Torino Esposizione – Turin, 1949
Find loads more images of Pier Luigi Nervi’s work on Pinterest, and elsewhere, and very readable articles about his visionary work on Architecture Farm, which is where I found this lovely quote about the Orvieto hangars:
“the astonishing vision of lightweight, even lacy concrete seemingly suspended in mid-air… impressed upon him just how poetic this material could be.”