VLADIMIR SHUKHOV – The Triangulating Russian Spiderman

VLADIMIR SHUKHOV – The Triangulating Russian Spiderman

Vladimir Zukhov

Throughout the 19th century, cultural developments were occurring in many disciplines that led to the full blossoming of Diagonality in the 20th century.  One person central to this critically formative period was the Russian engineer-polymath, scientist, architect, and photographer Vladimir Shukhov (1853-1939).  Whether he was directly inspired by the incredible strength (per unit of material) of actual spiderwebs or not, he saw the potential of triangulating a lattice of narrow steel bands and wires to create huge, light-weight engineering and architectural structures that had never been seen before, other than as proposed designs.  Their triangulated geometry resulted in a paradigm shift in the imagined geometry of the built environment.

While still in high school, it is not surprising that Shukhov came up with an original proof of the Pythagorean theorem, an event perhaps foreshadowing his inventive use of triangles as an engineer.  His teacher, while praising his achievement, flunked him for violating the guidelines set forth in the textbook.  (Is it not the maverick who leads us in new directions?)  He graduated from high school in 1871, then in 1876 graduated from college with a Gold Medal.  Rejecting an offer to teach mathematics, Shukhov became an engineer, traveling first, however, to Philadelphia in the United States to visit the Centennial Exposition: the first official World’s Fair.

Unknown 1

While in the States, Shukhov also travelled to other cities to study the construction industry, various engineering activities such as in Pittsburgh, and the American railway system in general.  His visit to the Exposition is noteworthy for several reasons.   First is the fact that the kindergarten teachings of the German educational innovator Frederich Froebel were on display.  The mother of the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright had also attended the Exposition and bought her son a set of the exhibited Froebel toys, which Wright himself has claimed deeply influenced his sense of geometry and design: “For several years I sat at the little Kindergarten table-top…and played…with the cube, the sphere and the triangle—these smooth wooden maple blocks…All are in my fingers to this day…”

Unknown

Friedrich Froebel

One wonders whether Shukhov was similarly affected by what he might have seen in the Kindergarten pavilion at the Exposition (Froebel invented the word) or whether he had already fallen under Froebel’s spell in Russia because Froebel’s groundbreaking and very influential educational system had spread worldwide, even as far east as Japan.

At the Centennial Exposition, Shukhov met Alexander Veniaminovich Bari who had worked on organizing the Exposition.  It is quite likely that Bari’s local connections made him aware of the 1,000 foot high tower that was proposed for the Exposition and it is equally likely that Shukhov would have wanted to know more about it because it was designed and would have been built by Clarke, Reeves & Co. owners of the local Phoenixville Bridge Works.  This company built the 1875 cast iron bridge that spanned the Schuylkill River that provided much-needed, cross-river access to the fair grounds.

Images

A year later, Shukhov and Bari met in Russia and Bari convinced Shukhov to abandon his medical education, which Shukhov began to pursue after becoming frustrated with the routine engineering he was performing while drafting in an office of the Warsaw-Vienna railroad.  Shukhov must have been delightfully stunned when Bari proposed that Shukhov become the Chief Engineer in a new company specializing in innovative engineering.  This kind of opportunity is just what any genius should encounter to fully realize his/her innate talents.

1a2ffc0a4e49627266df730a425b3c17 Laurent

In light of his many projects and the quality of his engineering endeavors, Shukhov is often referred to as the Russian Edison.  He is also compared to Gustave Eiffel because of his many contributions in the field of metal construction.  This activity included hyperboloid structures, thin-shell structures and tensile structures.  Shukhov’s first hyperboloid tower (the first in the world -1896) is a 37 meters high (121 feet) water tower built for the All-Russian Exposition in Nishny Novgorod, Russia.

World's First Diagrid Hyperboloid Structure, Nizhny, Novogrod 1896

World’s First Diagrid Hyperboloid Structure

Hyperboloid structures are noteworthy for their inward curving profile.  After the fair, the steel diagram tower was bought by a patron of the arts and relocated to his estate in Polibino, Russia where it stands today under state protection.  Within a decade the engineering principle and economic advantages of this prototype caught the attention of engineers around the world and the world  followed the design principles set forth in the hundreds of Shukhov-designed water towers, lighthouses and supports for radio transmission lines.

 

800px Worlds First Hyperboloid In Polibino Photo By Arssenev

The Exposition Tower relocated to Polibino

The significance of this design as relates to Diagonality is that with the replication of this design with its diagonal interweaving of structural bands, the mindset of engineers who created these structures and the ordinary citizens who saw them altered and non-orthogonal geometry became an acceptable structural and design motif.

 

THIS PAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION

 

V, Shukhov's 1922 Photo Of His Broadcasting Tower In Moscow

Shukhov's Radio Tower

World's First Tensile Steel Shell By V. Shukhov

 

 

Shukhov Oka Towers 1988 Photo By Igor Kazus

 

F690cb2185d84015eda71e25661fad4c Laurent

 

Ecaee40a6c14f75338514962cb26ebb9 Laurent

 

Eb217058d7e4a6eacac7e5b5093ecc93 Laurent

 

Eabba9af04a5951f16a2508638b5a97c Laurent

 

E46e9398b3ff378d05bb873b5bcff446 Laurent Radios

 

Dbff2cb5c0a399ddc223b7d4ab625597 Laurent Towers Dbbc8733a071a996af2b6cfc1866f8f4 Laurent D7798fd78a3d66e13133d3ff9cecb50e Laurent

 

C0708a6d9c9c2bd30042ded64438ad76 Laurent C7d060d546ebc80424ad89adfd1f1051 Laurent C6a392577acf54e259e8ba97b416224d Laurent A59187a4db29b89a3d2d03f0e3cf5e1b Laurent Palace 2708980987cd0b055f0fbe41aca72fb9 Laurent

 

621a9365666cac4f4fa5b92c48ef486d Laurent 0326b402e9ed9cffd821ee5ee3a8168a Laurent 80ce4a3bea1c682154f553534bc64eee Laurent 66cb532459eb93dcb5a2c6183ab65f0d Laurent 46fdcfded87498cf67bf7ec98c63d6b1 Towers Radio

 

44fb770f727bae43fae5f24fe1be94b4 Laurent 8c8a1aa8997138710b1adf0c1e367233 Laurent 6fd1051693cd2edc72e0618eb235e00c Study Architecture Nizhny Novgorod 2e142b1ca6c4074cb082b0446cd5f57f The Engineer Historian

 

https://vimeo.com/176174130 (A fine short film about the pioneering work of Vladimir Shukhov)

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *