Orani, a small city of 3,000 inhabitants, sits in the rugged interior of the island of Sardegna, about 30 km from Nuoro. The hilly region, known as the Barbagia, was once famous for its bandits. In previous times the local economy was sustained by talcum mines and leather, wood, and ceramic crafts, as well as the typical agricultural base of olives, grain, and wine.
The artist Costantino Nivola was born here in 1911, but made his fame in New York during the 1950s as the “architect’s sculptor”. He invented a sandcasting technique, making sculptural friezes that could become part of concrete panel construction. After Nivola’s death in 1988, a foundation was established and a small museum dedicated to his work was created in the old washhouse, on the southern edge of Orani. Since the museum’s opening in 1994, the initial architect Peter Chermayeff, completed an additional pavilion in 2001, known as the “Sandcast”, supplemented by a formal garden designed by Sebastiano Gaias in 2009 with zig-zagging paths, rills, and fountains. A competition in 2008 for a major addition to the Museo Nivola was won by Gianfranco Crisci, completed in 2012 and installed in 2013. A new installation of the collection was completed in 2016 under the direction of the Museum’s current director Antonella Camarda and the President of the Nivola Foundation, Giuliana Altea.
In this sixth course organized by TerraViva Workshop, under the rubric “The Living Museum”, and associated with the Politecnico di Milano, students will be engaged in reviving the sand-casting technique that made Nivola’s fortune as an artist. First using plaster on the beach near his house on Long Island and later using concrete, Nivola perfected a system of fabricating large relief panels that could be used as decoration or in some cases as structural architectural components, similar to prefab panels.
The workshop will involve the making of a small temporary stage for performing, using a series of sand-cast panels as decoration. Students will determine the siting of the stage, its design, and participate in its construction. The artist Tiziano Trevisiol will assist in the composition of the panels, attempting to revive the spirit of Nivola’s reliefs. A further issue is how to install temporary works in the large park of the museum, part of which was once a quarry.
Photo Credits © Alesa Metka Micacchi & Toufic Rifai