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Translating Luigi Moretti and Pier Luigi Nervi in Montreal, 1961-64

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9:30 AM, Thursday 26 May 2022 (20 minutes)

The twentieth century witnessed an increased mobility of architectural knowledge across international borders. This transnational flow of ideas was highly visible in Canada’s own architectural scene following WWII, as the nation sought to position itself on a global stage and foreign architecture studios vied for commissions in the country. As a case study for this arrival of foreign architecture knowledge in Canada, this paper will examine the Tour de la Bourse at Place Victoria in Montreal, a project designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti and Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi from 1961-1964. With a developer in Rome, the tower’s structure is notable for its design and construction in reinforced concrete—an element of Italian technological expertise held by Nervi. Upon its inauguration the tower was the world’s tallest reinforced concrete building. This paper will examine the ways that Moretti and Nervi’s design (and expertise) was translated, modified, and implemented in a local Canadian context, with a specific focus on the medium and technology of concrete. This includes examining changes implemented by local consultants in response to local climatic conditions and the use of concrete as it related to local material networks, material histories, and labour conditions. Starting from precedents of towers built in concrete across northern Italy in the postwar period, the paper will consider how the transatlantic project was not a foreign imposition but a translation, fitting within intensely local conditions. This belongs to a larger project on transnationalism in Canadian architecture in the postwar period, and its media of transmission.

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