By Jean Marie Carey

Sculptor Constantino Nivola, whose works are an integral part of many significant modern buildings, died 6 May 1988.

A native of Sardinia born 5 July 1911, Nivola served as Art Director for Olivetti from 1936 to 1939. He emigrated to the United States with his wife Ruth Guggenheim in 1939 and served as Art Director for Interiors magazine from 1941 through 1945, where he championed Modern Architecture.

By this time, Nivola had begun to sculpt seriously, using a form of relief work he developed while playing with his two children on the sand near his Long Island farmhouse. In 1953 he created a much admired sandcast sculptural wall for the Olivetti Showroom on Fifth Avenue, New York. (The wall has since been relocated to Sert’s Science Center at Harvard University.) In 1957, he used this technique for a 110-foot-long mural in reinforced concrete at the Mutual Insurance Company of Hartford. Among Nivola’s many collaborations with architects was a 35-piece sculptural program for Eero Saarinen’s Stiles and Morse Colleges at Yale University, executed in 1962 from fresh-setting concrete.

Nivola was Director of the Design Workshop at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design from 1953 to 1957 and taught at Harvard again in the early 1970s, as well as at Columbia (1961-63) and Berkeley (1978-79).

Nivola’s sensitivity to the relationship between sculpture and architecture or landscape is perhaps best demonstrated by his strong advocacy of the design by Maya Lin for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., when he served as a member of the jury that selected her design.

Reference: “Nivola, Constantino.” Benezit Dictionary of Artists. []

Sound Fountain, Ulassai Municipal Laundry Building, 1987. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A series of sculptures located in Piazza Satta in Nuoro, 1967. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Abstract Figure, Philadelphia Public Art at the Philadelphia Public Library, Fourth Street, 1961. Photo:

Yale University, Ezra Stiles College Courtyard, Yale University. Constantino Nivola, sculptor; Eero Saarinen and Associates, with Cesar Pelli and John Gerard Dinkeloo, architects. 1958-62; sculpture: 1960. Photographer: Ezra Stoller.

Further Reading: Brendan Cassidy. Politics, Civic Ideals and Sculpture in Italy c. 1240-1400. London: Harvey Miller, 2007. 

Rosalind E. Krauss. Passages in Modern Sculpture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 1981. 

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