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New art exhibit honors Norfolk Scope architect ahead of arena's 50th anniversary

Norfolk Scope Arena 1
Posted at 12:52 PM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 17:09:13-04

NORFOLK, Va. - "Really the most important modern building in Norfolk."

That's how the Chief Curator at the Chrysler Museum of Art describes the Norfolk Scope arena, ahead of the 50th anniversary of its opening on November 12.

To mark the occasion, Lloyd DeWitt and his staff at the Chrysler put together an exhibit honoring the Scope and its world-renowned architect.

"Pier Luigi Nervi: The Art and Science of Building" opened October 1.

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"I think bringing back the story is really a fantastic thing to do to remind people of the energy and the confidence that this building expressed," said DeWitt.

The decade was the 1960s.

DeWitt says Norfolk was in a post-World War II revitalization and looking to move its downtown into a new era.

Upon seeing the arena venues used in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, the city decided that Nervi, the Italian architect behind two of the arenas, should design something similar in Norfolk. The structure would serve as a symbol of urban renewal.

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Over the years, Nervi also left his mark at the Vatican, Florence and San Francisco. His Brutalist style often featured intricate concrete designs, like those seen inside and outside the Scope.

"It's a design that people are still learning to understand because Norfolk has been bulldozed so many times and burned down," said DeWitt. "The building has this gorgeous ceiling, all these coffers and you only see when you go there for a hockey game and they turn the lights on."

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The Scope will see its largest audiences in 19 months starting next week when the Norfolk Admirals begin their return season.

The Nervi exhibit will remain up inside the Chrysler Museum of Art, which also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, through February. DeWitt says, so far, he's been happy with the public interest.

"[The Scope] made us world famous because we have preserved it. Also because we expressed our ambition by choosing this architect and taking a risk," he said.

Admission to the exhibit is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday.