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Bedrich Schnirch. The first suspended steel roof.

I have been thinking about posting another recipe of a granola but then I have decided to write about more interesting topic this evening. I have noticed that I have not written about anything serious in a long time. Finally, a perfect idea crossed my mind yesterday. A lot of you guys liked the article on the folk architecture in Cicmany [link] and I thought I will do another piece on something very close to my heart. In the course of my studies, every time I attended a class where we were supposed to compose a paper, I have always been asigned to work on a topic with case study in Slovakia. To be honest, it is not an easy task to do especially if you have spent your college time aborad. I would usually have to look very hard to come up with something interesting. I have recently took a class ‘Design in existing context/ Renovation and alteration of architectural heritage’. It was a very interesting subject and I have learnt a lot about the industrial heritage – suspension bridges from the end of 19th century in particular. Anyway, I was supposed to write a short paper concearning a related topic. My problem was, Slovakia used to be quite agricultural land and the industrial revolution arrived very late, so I was short on interesting objects. There were no preserved suspension bridges to write about. However, I have accidentally stumbled upon an engineer Bedrich Schnirch and the rest of the paper came together very easily.

Bedrich Schnirch (in German literature Friedrich Schnirch, 1791-1868) was a czech engineer, inventor, and architect. He is known for designing the first suspended bridge on the european land as well as designign the first suspended bridge for a railway traffic. However, only few sources mention his work on the field of suspended roof constructions, neither do they mention his patent of a chain roof form 1826. Schnirch started designing and building bridges in Czech Republic, it used to be a part of Austria-Hungary back then, just like Slovakia, and later on moved to Vienna. The most of the bridges he had designed have been replaced over the time but there is one last from 1847 in Podolsko. It has been translocated to a new place, Stadlec, in the 1980s but it is still in use.[1] Considering the slow progress of industrial revolution in Slovakia, the time Schnirch has been working on his significant projects, all his structures vere build exclusively out of wrought iron. [2] The first puddling oven in Slovakia has been put into use in 1839. So, in his early projects, Schnirch was definitely using handmade steel parts. In the paper written on 10/1824 he describes several parameters of those emelents, e.g. the thinner the part was, the better strength the material performed in the experiments – comparing the determined overall tensile strenght of the mateial. The article (in German [3]) is looking at a hypothetical construction for a theatre, covered by a chain-roof, presenting a contemporary calculations concearning its load bearing behaviour. It is questionable, wheather was Schnirch fully aware of the Navier´s theoretical work on suspended construtions composed in 1823 [4] when composing this article. It could have been based on his own experience aquiried during planing and construction the bridge in 1823-24 in Staznice, span 29.71m.[5] Nevertheless, Schnirch introduced here the term suspended roof construction and has also registered a patent on the small chain-roofs. He presented this solution as a fire-resistant construction, as it would withstand fire for much longer than just a plain timber skeleton. According to the literature, by the end of 1820s, this solution has been implemented on five/six objects – Straznice, Tuřany na Morave, probably two structures in Český Brod and two in Banska Bystrica. 

The first prototype has been designed in Banska Bystrica in 1826. There have been found original plans of two buildings in archive in 1960s and afterwards have found one of them still standing. There have been released some short publication back then concearning this great discovery. However, the most publication – except for The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture :), do not recognise Schnirch as an inventor of suspended roof constructions. This one object is acctually still standing there and hundereds of people are walking by every day, not noticing. The house has been originally constructed in 15th-16th century, yet in 1826 it has got a new roof covering area of 12.4 x 25.6m. All in all, 26 chains in the distance of appx. 49.5cm are ankered in the facades and deflected over a two gothic masonry arches in the middle. Each chains is composed of 5 segments made out of crubicle steel with min. 0.8 x 2.5cm (1/3 Zoll x 1 Zoll) [6].

construction

The axonometry shows the load bearing principle and the main construction components. These have been added to the historical substance from 15-16th century in 1826. Vertically, the tensile force from chains is anchered into the facade which is balanced by its dead load. These anchors can be seen in certain areas underneath the plaster. The horizontal share is being distributed into the walls through additional  horizontal arches built upon the ceiling. The diverting is being carried out by two gothic arches built in masonry, these have additional tiebacks from flat-steel-profiles. The ethernit tiles has replaces the original roof coat and during this reconstruction, a wooden substructe has been added as well. The original roof coat has been built out of cast-iron elements – some of them have been found on site and documented (by third party). However, there are no available measurements. Looking at the holes, where the original wires have been attached to the main chains, an appx. 14,6 cm (equals ca. 5,5 Zoll = 14,487cm) interval has been noticed. On those, Schnirch proposed to hang cast-iron elements of 55 □ Zoll in his article and a sketch presented a rectangularly shaped tiles. So we could come to e.g. 10 x 5,5 Zoll (26,4cm x 14,5cm) big tiles which were overlaping by half of the length. For more vivid image, make sure to click through the gallery attached below. I have left out the structural analysis on purpouse as this article is not supposed to be too scientific. However, if you are interested in more details please let me know so in the comment section.

All in all, I have been fascinated by the simplicity of the structure and its good condition. It has passed about 160 years, yet the chains are (except for one split piece) still intact and the roof still suits it purpose. However, I have been disappointed by the ethernit plates and their wooden substructure which declassified the lightness of the suspended roof.

 

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NOTES

[1] Stadlecky most – link, originally built over Vltava in Podolsko, CZ. There is a video of translocation and the process of rebuilding it in Stadlec here. It is unfortunatelly in Czech, sorry. More impressions of the bridge could be find here.

[2] 1740 begins the production of crucible steel, the process has been invented by Benjamin Huntsman. However, the production in similiar ovens has started in Germany in 1823, thanks to Friedrich Krupp and his mild steel. In the mean time, Henry Cort has produced puddled steel in 1784 and England has become a leader in the business for many coming years.

[3] Ueber Dachstühle von Schmiedeißen, deren Leichtigkeit, Wohlheit und Anwendbarkeit, written in October 1824, published in Mittheilungen der k.k. Mährisch-Schlesischen Gesellschaft… 12/1824, 01/1825, incl. drawing.

[4] Calude Louis Marie Henry Navier (1785-1836) has contributed a great deal to Mechanics and Analysis through his life. In 1823, he published Rapport .. etc mémoire sur les ponts suspendus in French. It is a remarkable work regarding suspended bridge constructions and their static and dynamic behaviour, it is also responsible for the boom of suspended bridges in late 1820s. The paper has been partially translated into German in 1825 by J.F.W.Dietlein (1787-1837), Berlin. The full german version has been presented in 1829 by J.G.Kutschera in a paper Bericht an Herrn Becquen und Abhandlung über die (Ketten-)Hängebrücken von Herrn Navier. So, the only way Schnirch would based his article on the Navier’s work were if he understood French, which is possible, yet not proved. 

[5] The suspended bridge in Straznice has been erected as the first of its kind on the european land in 1823-24 and served till 1857(61). The first suspended bridge in steel has been builtby James Finley in 1801 in USA and the first in Europe came around 1817 – designed also by Finley.

[6] The contemporary units converted into metric system.

1 Linie – 1/12 Zoll
1 Zoll = 0,02634 m = 2,634 cm
1 □ Zoll = 1 Zoll² = 6,937956 cm²
1 cub. Zoll = 0,0000 1827 457 m³
1 Foot = 0, 316081 mm
1 Klftr (Klaffern) = 6 Foot = 1,896486 m
1 □ Klftr = 1 Klftr² = 36 □ Foot = 3,590494 m²
1 Unze = 28,349g
1 Pfd (libra) – österreichische Pfd = 514,37g = 0,51437kg
1 Cnt = 100 Pfd = 51,437kg
1Pfd/ □ Zoll = 0,070755 kg/cm²
1Cnt/□ Zoll = 7,0755 kg/cm²

Frozen and Foggy

Those who follow me on Instagram (@runningarchitect) have already seen a little preview of the coming post on Saturday. Here comes the story behind.

I have ben resting at the begining of last week and my legs felt very fresh but I was also feeling very lazy. The weather was not helping either, the world behind the glas looked very hostile. Nevertheless, we have planned an exciting new route which had to be explored. So I have put on some warmer clothes as it was about 20k in cold and outside was a thin layer of fresh powder waiting for us. Sipping on mom´s hot soup in the evening, I was already convinced that the trip turned out great. On our way, we have conquered the central point of Slovakia [1]. I have to say, it is one of my favourite places to go for a hike. The top of the hill is quite exposed, a crag. I am always excited when I get a chance to scramble for a bit. There was even a some kind of a great view waiting for us on the top of the hill. Although you could not see in the distance, the picture of forest disappearing right in front of your eyes was enchanting as well. I have completely lost the sence of wider space in that thick fog. There was only this very small, yet limitless world around me. Now and here. I admit, it can be frustrating if you are lost but even then you could embrace the possibility of this strange freedom, running into unknown. The best part was, the whole run was accelerated and it felt like flying through. You know, if you only see the tip of your nose, even a slow pace seems to be an unbelievably fast tempo. What is more, the trees were plastered with snow and frost and it looked like the frozen kingdom. You can check out few pictures in the gallery attached below.

All in all, I am very glad I have found the strenght to get off that couch! It is usually so that things we are not very enthusiastic about tend to turn out much better than we would have anticipated at the beginning. So, just put on some shoes and go explore.

 

You can download the GPX-file here.

[1] Hrb with its altiture 1.254,7 meters above sea level. Or at least, that is what Wikipedia says 🙂

 

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Above everything, literally.

Christmas is probably the busiest time of year even in Slovakia and once can get sucked into that rush very easily. Crowds of people are streaming to supermarkets for last minute grocery shopping and the malls are bursting at the seams as well. All in all, it is very hectic and I have the feeling I have not seen the worst yet – there are still two more days to go. I usually love Christmas time – especially delicious food, seeing my my family, and plenty of days off. However, the haste knocks me out badly. So I have been glad we have proceeded in the outdoorsy adventures we have started this weekend. To make the most out of it, we have hiked in Velka Fatra – for more details on the route, check out the attached GPX-file attached below. Climbing out of the foggy valley was not without great effort and enormous amount of sweat, my legs were burning, but when we emerged above the fog ee have entered a completely different world, a very peaceful one. All my troubles have stayed down there in the thick milk. There was no signs of the rush going on deep down. Well, another great day and I am so beautifly tired, I might be going to bed at 9pm tonight!

GPX-file

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Weekend of Inversion

I have spent last week moping around and blamed the foggy weather for my lack of motivation. I kept telling myself that I have used up all my sunny days this autumn, so I should not be so spoiled and train even on foggy or rainy days. Well, it is not as exciting to report on those activities as it feels like work, not fun. Nevertheless, this weekend we have climbed out of the foggy valley and were pleased to find glorious weather in the higher altitude. It felt so surreal. There was a completely different world up there – sunny, full of light and warm. On the other hand, my shoes did not survive the heavy melting snow and I have end up with wet feet but as long as they were not cold, I did not mind at all. Nevertheless, I have been able to refill the motivation bucket and shoot some nice pictures on my way. I have even got sunkissed and have noticed some freckles in the mirror :-). Such a lovely weekend.

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Evening beauty of socialist housing estate

Despite the fact that I have the luxury of going for a run at any time of a day, I usually end up fighting the dusk. Today, I have returned home in a thick darkness and what is more, it has not been one of the bright starry nights either. Fortunatelly, I have managed to stay out of muddy pitfalls and did not injure myself. I am fully aware, how dangerous are adventures like this one, especially if you run without any light. I am not even going to start on how scared I was, alone in the dark woods. So, I will try avoid any similiar situations in the future for sure.

On the other hand, there was a one nice outcome of the whole irresponsible act of mine. I think, evenings are the most extraordinary time to be walking around town. I am guessing, the most people hate the housing estates built during the socialist era. They are not very appealing in a daylight but they are magical at the dark! You need to take a step back from the block to be able to see the whole canvas. It is very impressive, how those plain facades come to life in various tones – there is everything from blue to yellow or bright white. What is more, the random composition of these lights is constantly changing. It has a certain charm, at least to me.

Winter Hike

Looking out of the bus window today, it is hard to believe I have been hiking in a winter wonderland last week. Not even the slightest trace of snow on these fields – I just hope, it will be different when I arrive at home. I have travelled this week to Germany as I had some interviews and consultations for my master thesis, so it has been a long week – a lot of socialising as well. Now, I am ready to crawl back into my cave and put my running shoes back on! Till then, I have few more hours in the bus and can at least look at those charming pictures, hoping it will be just the same when I get back.

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Melting snowflakes

It has been snowing! It is officially winter time in my calendar. So, I have skipped the long run I had planed for today and went for a walk instead to celebrate this special moment. I felt like twelve-year-old again, catching snowflakes and imprinting my footsteps in various patterns into the fresh white layer. What is more, I will probably have stiff neck tomorrow because I have been constantly looking up. You know, when you look straight forward – the flakes seem to fall so fast but when you look upwards, they are slowly making their way down. It is magical. Everything seems to be in a time loop, slowed down. I especially enjoy when it is about the 0°C and the flakes are huge. And if you try to catch them, they melt on your hot skin immediately – like they were never there. Nevertheless, today I was satisfied even with the smaller versions. There were so many softies, peacefully floating in the air, and from time to time, I have even eaten some of them. They are so delicious – it is almost like eating icecream. Bon appetite!

Folk architecture, Cicmany.

The enchanting village Čičmany [1] is located in central western part of Slovakia enclosed by mountains Strážovské vrchy. Originally founded in 1272, the village has been declared a national monument of folk architecture in 1977 (Národná kutúrna pamiatka –  rezervácia ľudovej architektúry) due to its unique architecture, traditional clothing and embroidery. There can be found 33 listed objects  – log houses decorated with ornaments in white colour. Through the time, these patterns has developed from simple geometrical drawing into complex art and  have become a part of village´s identity, its trademark and national pride. It took me 25 years to pay this unique place a visit. I have had a good knowledge base going there as I have recently written a paper in school about it [2]. I am not going to bore you with more details. However, my obsession with folk architecture has to be elaborated further. 

I have been frequently asked the question ‘What is there to see in Slovakia?’ and as majority of my friends are foreigners, I have often played a tour guide as well. It is not an easy job to do so here. Slovakia has no pyramids, the number of expectional landmarks is very limited, neither would you find great museums here. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is nothing like those other great historic cities in central Europe, e.g. Prag, Vienna or Budapest. I used to be very intimidated by this fact and have struggled for a long time what to show my friends. You have to know, Slovakia has been a part of Kingdom of Hungary, later a part of The Austria-Hungary Monarchy, and has only recently separated from Czech Republic [3]. Therefore folk traditions and local architecture were the only mean to form a national identity and the high culture has been absent for centuries. Yet, I have learned to look at things from different angle when studying architecture. I have reased, folk music and dance, traditional costumes, and vernacular architecture should be considered the greatest Slovak monument with all its intangible aspects and the best part is, they are being embraced even nowadays. 

Folk architecture is very unique and impulsive – it is never finished and constantly changing.[4] It is alive as long as there are people (folk) who maintain those traditions and it becomes extinct when the last member passes on. Unfortunatelly, folk architecture is lacking external publicity. You can read about renaissance palaces, gothic cathedrals, or english gardens – they all follow some specific set of rules, yet the folk architecture is a mystery. It works with random ideas, sometimes even very strange ones. That is the part I appreciate most about it.

However, Čičmany, its urbanism and structures themselves, is the only folk monument which was created based on plan. The majority of current urban pattern is based on master plan proposed in 1923 and most log-houses were constructed in 20th century. The reservation of folk architecture includes all in all 115 objects, 32 are listed on as heritage, yet only 3 houses have been built before 1921. Nevertheless, these objects represent a valuable documentation of original type of rural housing objects in the region, traditional building techniques and for the village characteristic decoration elements with unique emotional impressiveness.[5] Furthermore, the village is a rare example of preserving folk architecture under supervision of conservation experts, including architects and urban planners. Chosen approach to reconstruct the village as a whole unit after the destructive fires in 1907 and 1921 prove the historical and cultural significance of the place even at the beginning of 20th century. It is also one of few conservation projects in the central Europe from this period. We might not have Versailles in Slovakia but we definitely have plenty to offer as well – even some unconventional sights. 

The best part about folk architecture is, you do not need a college degree to understand it. It is quite straight forward, made by people for people, pleasing your eyes. You can check out some samples from Cicmany in the gallery attached below. It is like entering a kingdom of gingerbread houses.

 

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[1] Čičmany/Cicamny, Slovakia: N 48.956539,  E 18.516933

[2]  Living monuments vs. conservation – conserving heritage in use, case study Cicmany. If you are interested, please contact me and I will email it to you.

[3] The Slovak Republic was founded 1.1.1993. So it has been only 22 years of independency compared to centuries of being governed by other nations.

[4] There are roots of the term living monument.

[5] Some examples of ornaments could be found on p.8 in a Master Thesis of N. Simova (2013) here.

 

Silent dancing and power of a great song

Yesterday, I have been on my almost-daily walk listening to my new favourite song. It is called Bright White by Kishi Bashi – you can listen to it at Youtube. Do not judge it by its name until you have listened to it – would recommend starting right now.

I have to go on record, I cannot sing, I am not able to read notes, I do not play any instrument, and I only took dancing lessons for recreational purpose. However, I like to sing aloud when I am alone. Otherwise, I stick to the lip-singing because I am aware of the horrible sound coming out of mouth when I attempt to sing. The same goes for my dancing skills, I enjoy it mostly by myself when tidying up or in overcrowded places. Nevertheless, Bright White is very impulsive. It makes me run faster and jump over bushes… Unfortunatelly, I have been recently fighting a flu or some kind of cold, so I had to stick to walking-only yesterday. Then the song came up and I had dificulties stay still so I looked around, the air was clear, and I started dancing and singing aloud. It has been a great 4:15 minutes. I would highly recommend a similar therapy if you are feeling down or exhausted. It is a great boost.

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