Giovanni Lombardi was awarded the 2009 José Entrecanales Ibarra Prize in the category of civil engineering in recognition of his professional, teaching and research career.
He was born in Lugano (Switzerland) on May 28, 1926. He spent part of his childhood in the French Pyrenees, although he attended primary school in Lugano before entering the Rosenberg Institute in St. Gallen. In 1944 he graduated from secondary school in Basel, finishing with the highest grade point average of his class in the entire country.
He earned his diploma in civil engineering in 1948 at the Federal Polytechnic School of Zurich (Switzerland), where he went on to complete a doctorate in technical sciences (with a dissertation on the calculation of arch dams) in 1955.
He also has an honorary doctorate degree from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (1986) and an honorary engineering degree from the Polytechnic School of Milan (Italy), 2004.
He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lombardi and, at his more than 80 years, remains active as a consulting engineer in the areas of dams, underground works and rock mechanics.
He is the father of three children, none of whom has seconded their father’s vocation. As the result of his extensive travels, he considers himself a citizen of the world. He is fluent in three languages—Italian, French and German—and speaks Spanish and English.
Outstanding among his principal works are the hydroelectric power stations that he designed and directed (primarily in Switzerland, but also in Austria, Ecuador and other countries).
Also noteworthy is his participation in the design and construction of dams in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Mexico and Spain (sanitation studies of the Susqueda and Tajera stations).
Other specialties that have set Giovanni Lombardi apart are underground works. He was responsible for the design and construction of innumerable tunnels for motorways, highways and railways. Among these, the system of urban tunnels under the city of Lugano, the San Gottardo dual carriageway tunnel in Switzerland and the restoration of the Mont Blanc tunnel after it was damaged by fire merit highlighting.
Also worth noting are his consulting work for major engineering works such as the English Channel (where he contributed to the solution of special problems in rock mechanics and support on the French side), and his preliminary studies of a tunnel under the Straits of Gibraltar.
Throughout his professional career he has developed numerous innovations that he then put into practice. Some of the best known are the thickness coefficient for arch dams, the characteristic lines method (for the analysis of the stability of underground works), the “2LN” or double logarithmic bounded distribution, the behaviour model for fissured, elastic, and saturated rock masses for the analysis of their deformations and load bearing capacities, etc.
Lombardi has set out all of these theoretical and practical contributions in an extensive bibliography that covers a period stretching from 1953 to his most recent text: “An Old Dream: the Tunnel Under the Strait of Gibraltar”, published in 2010.
Lombardi has received many recognitions during his long professional life, to include the Gustave Trasenster Medal and the Samoter Award for Designers. He has also received the distinction of numerous representative posts in such institutions as the Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects, of which he is an honorary member, as well as the Institution of Civil Engineers (London), and the National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of Argentina. He is, moreover, Honorary Chairman of the International Commission on Large Dams, an honorary member of the Swiss Chamber of Technical and Scientific Forensic Experts, the Swiss Committee on Large Dams, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and “foreign member” of the National Engineering Academy of Argentina.