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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.