Day 192/365 of Steel – Jörg Schlaich

Engineering at Champions League level

Jörg Schlaich studied civil engineering in Stuttgart and Berlin. At the time, Stuttgart was home to a star engineer, Fritz Leonhardt, the pioneer of television towers. Schlaich joined his office in 1963 and seven years later became a partner in the renowned office of Leonhardt and Andrä, until he started Schlaich + Partner in 1980 together with Rudolf Bergermann.

A Photo of Jörg Schlaich
Fig 1: Jörg Schlaich
Photo: Amin Akhtar

Jörg Schlaich had three passions: bridge construction; lightweight construction using tensile structures; and the promotion of solar energy. Moreover, design was always a special concern for him, as was collaboration with capable architects. In commercial construction, he considered it his task to make the architects’ ideas buildable.

Killesberg Tower
Fig 2: Killesberg Tower
Photo: qwesy qwesy

In many projects, he was the decisive man in the background who made things feasible in the first place — the roof of the Olympic Stadium in Munich, for example, which the general public associates with the engineers Frei Otto and Behnisch. Elegant World Cup stadiums have been built all over the world (with tensile roof structures, of course), bridges from Seattle to New Delhi, skyscrapers in Manhattan, all of which are at the forefront of technological development.

Footbridge Lake Max Eyth across Neckar River
Fig 3: Footbridge Lake Max Eyth across Neckar River
Photo: Gerd Elsner

When it came to his own bridges, it seemed that, coming from a background of solid concrete construction, he was increasingly looking for lightweight, filigree solutions and thus inevitably arrived using steel at suspension and tensile constructions. His footbridges were not just ordinary pedestrian bridges but inspired examples of unique and elegant form, like built poetry.

German Pavilion, Expo 2020
Fig 4: German Pavilion, Expo 2020
Photo: ©keller-fotografie

The elegant forms, incidentally, emerged from the endeavor to exhaust engineering technology and to achieve ever greater performance with ever less material input. For Jörg Schlaich was convinced that it was the task of engineers to minimize construction, to act sustainably and to protect the environment to the greatest extent possible.

Stadium 974, Ras Abu Aboud, Doha
Fig 5: Stadium 974, Ras Abu Aboud, Doha
Photo: © Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy/AFP

This is why he turned to the use of solar energy at an early stage. The project closest to his heart — the updraft power plant, which he tirelessly propagated for many years — did not get beyond a small prototype in Spain in 1981-86, much to his disappointment.

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

You May Also Like

Day 19/365 of Steel – The Gherkin

On the 28th of April 2004, The Gherkin was officially inaugurated. Norman Foster (architect) and Ove Arup (engineering) created a true masterpiece in skyscraper engineering. The Gherkin is an example…
Read More

Day 2/365 of Steel – Roy Hofheinz

Roy Hofheinz was born on the 10th of april 1912. As co-owner of HSA (Houston Sports Association) he was the driving force behind the construction of the famous Astrodome. The…
Read More

Day 29/365 of Steel – Menashe Kadishman

Menashe Kadishman (21/8/1932 – 8/5/2015) I discovered Kadishman’s work during our visit to the Jewish Museum in Berlin.The Memory Void, one of the symbolic spaces on the ground level of…
Read More