Historic Structural Detail: Intricate Connection

by Don Friedman on January 13, 2016

Structural forms represent the technology used to create them. For example, the current architectural vogue for free-for shapes, which arguably started with Guggenheim Bilbao, was made possible by the use of three-dimensional computerized analysis and drafting that simplified the work of designing and detailing the steel frame.

From the 1890s into the 1930s, the cost of riveted connections was low compared to the cost of steel. It therefore made sense to build up complicated truss-like girders instead of using simpler plate girders or large rolled sections.

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With the plaster (finish and fireproofing) removed, we can see two truss-girders where they meet a small column. There are a lot of rivets in a small areas, but relatively little steel, reflecting the priorities of the designers and builders.

Also, on another topic, structural steel doesn’t rust if it stays dry. The steel in the picture is close to 120 years old and it looks great.

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