Day 281/365 of Steel – Maurice Koechlin

French-Swiss engineer Maurice Koechlin was one of Gustave Eiffel‘s most loyal partners. Born on March 8, 1856 in the Haut-Rhin, he was hired by the Eiffel company in 1879 after graduating from the Polytechnicum in Zurich.

A portrait of Maurice Koechlin
Fig 1: A portrait of Maurice Koechlin

The talented young engineer joined the company to take on the difficult task of managing the design office. Four months before his arrival, Theophile Seyrig, a long-standing collaborator of Gustave Eiffel, had left the management of the design office following major disagreements.

Koechlin immediately set to work on completing all the calculations for the famous Garabit Viaduct. He also took part in designing the structure of the Statue of Liberty with Auguste Bartholdi.

Fig 2:The Garabit Viaduct
Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0Link

Koechlin worked closely with Emile Nouguier, another engineer in charge of technical surveys and assembly. One day, they were discussing the upcoming World Exhibition that would take place in Paris and wondered what could be done “to make it more attractive”.

They came up with the idea of a very tall tower, made of steel. On June 6, 1884, Maurice Koechlin made a rough calculation and an initial sketch of a 300-meter metal tower at his home.

First Sketch of the Eiffel Tower concept by Maurice Koechlin
Fig 3: First Sketch of the Eiffel Tower concept by Maurice Koechlin
Photo: beobachter.ch

The drawing was directly inspired by the large pillars of the metal viaducts built by Eiffel. Although very basic and not very aesthetic, it already featured the quintessential elements of the ingenious design: four legs composed of solid columns linked together by lattice girders rising obliquely to meet at the top, curved piers for better wind resistance, etc.

It was time to present the design to the big boss, who was unfortunately not impressed and disregarded the project. However, he did authorize his employees to continue working on the idea.

Koechlin and Nouguier worked with architect Stephen Sauvestre to make the project more aesthetic and attractive. The reworked and “decorated” project was again submitted to Gustave Eiffel. This time, Eiffel was convinced and registered a patent in the names of Eiffel, Nouguier and Koechlin! The rest is history…

Railrway bridge in Lyon designed by Maurice Koechlin - "Pont ferroviaire de la Mulatière"
Fig 4: Railrway bridge in Lyon designed by Maurice Koechlin – “Pont ferroviaire de la Mulatière”
Photo: Didier Duforest

Other significant works by Maurice Koechlin are the railway bridge in Lyon – “Pont ferroviaire de la Mulatière” and the bridge over the Seine river in Paris – “Viaduc d’Austerlitz”.

Fig 5: Bridge over the Seine river in Paris designed by Maurice Koechlin – “Viaduc d’Austerlitz”
Photo: David Monniaux

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.

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