Born in Germany, educated in the UK, and recognised worldwide, Konstantin Grcic has worked with numerous materials on a variety of projects. His most recent project brought him to Italy, or, more specifically, to a seemingly modest yet very significant building in Magliana, a suburb on the outskirts of Rome.
Known as the padiglione (pavilion), the concrete structure was once a warehouse, built in 1945 by celebrated architect Pier Luigi Nervi for his firm. Nervi would later collaborate on such notable projects as the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in New York. He received the prestigious Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects.
The padiglione was the first building Nervi designed using ferro-cement, a technique for reinforcing concrete, which eventually became a signature element of his work. Even in this small, practical creation of his, we already find evidence of his innovation.
It seems fitting, therefore, that a contemporary design innovator such as Grcic should install his own concrete creations under the roof of this hidden treasure. Grcic’s 2017 ‘Magliana Project’ is part ofPrivato Romano Interno, a series of exhibitions initiated by the Giustini/Stagetti Galleria O Roma. Designers from around the world were invited to create and exhibit limited edition furniture collections inspired by the city of Rome.
Launched at the padiglione and subsequently exhibited at the Giustini/Stagetti Galleria O Roma, the ‘Magliana Project’ features a series of modular rectangular tables with wing-like integrated seating, as well as four imposing LED suspension lights above. It’s not Grcic’s first use of concrete in his work - in 2014 he produced Side Table_B, a small design in the shape of an upside-down Martini glass; and the futuristic, geometric Chair_One, which had a conical concrete base - but it is definitely his most expansive.
Though created decades apart from each other, Nervi’s padiglione and Grcic’s ‘Magliana Project’ are both evidence, particularly in this commemorative moment, of the versatility and longevity of concrete. As Nervi himself once put it, “concrete is a living creature which can adapt itself to any form, any need, any stress.”
Photography: Omar Golli (Interior), Tommaso Nappi (Exterior)