Shukhov Tower

Russian indus­trial and art exhi­bi­tion, which was held in Nizhny Novgorod in 1896, has become the largest exhi­bi­tion in Czarist Russia. It was a demon­stra­tion of scien­tific and tech­no­logic progress in Russia of that time, and also a triumph of the Great Russian engi­neer Vladimir Shukhov.

Vladimir Shukhov was born on 16 (28) th of August in 1853. In 1876 Shukhov grad­u­ates from the Imperor Moscow tech­nical college (now MSTU of Bauman) with flying colours and receives a diploma of an engi­neer-mechanic. Great Russian math­e­mati­cian Paph­nutiy Chebi­shev offers a young man an intern­ship in math­e­matics and mechanics, but Schukhov chooses a career of an engi­neer. He goes to Philadel­phia for a World exhi­bi­tion to study the last world tech­nical achieve­ments and starts his engi­neering career when returning to Russia. However, he continues his acad­emic work-he solves prac­tical tasks on the basis of profound acad­emic research. In 1929 V. Shukhov was chosen as an honorary member of the Science Academy of USSR.

His inven­tions include equip­ment for recy­cling and keeping oil, the first petro­leum pipelines, projec­tion and building of oil-tanker ships, a nozzle for burning fuel oil, indus­trial real­iza­tion of termic cracking, heating pots of a conve­nient construc­tion, projec­tion and building of railway bridges, archi­tec­tural net costruc­tions and closures of different types. Сover­ings and loading docks of Shukhov cover Pushkin (Tsve­taeva) Museum of fine art, GUM, Petrov passage, Belorusskiy railway station, Kievskiy railway station, Bakhmetievskiy garage, as well as indus­trial objects of Perm, Chelyabinsk, Magni­to­gorsk and many other cities of Siberia and Ural. Hovewer, this engi­neer is famous to most of us for his another creation — the tower on Shabolovka.

The covering of central exhi­bi­tion halls on the exhi­bi­tion in Nizhny Novgorod in 1896 was projected by Shukhov. In front of the major exhi­bi­tion hall there was an elegant water tower 25.6 metres high. Its can, which could contain 144 thou­sand liters, provided all the terri­tory of the exhi­bi­tion with water. On the can there was an obser­va­tion point, where one could climb up a circular ladder inside the tower. The first building like this was constructed by Shukhov in a yard of an office in Bari, where he worked, still the era of hyper­boloid construc­tions starts from this second tower, repre­sented at the exhi­bi­tion. The tower was very beau­tiful, and after the exhi­bi­tion a rich land­lord Nechaev-Maltsev bought it and settled it in his estate Poli­bino near Lipetsk. The tower still stands there now.

A priv­i­lege (in modern terms - a patent) for a chis­elled tower in a shape of a hyper­boloid was claimed also in 1896.

Priv­i­lege (patent), issued on March 12, 1899.

Descrip­tion of an open­work tower.
To the priv­i­lege of engi­neer-mechanic V. Shukhov, in Moscow, claimed on January 11, 1896.

The retic­ular surface which forms the tower of the suggested device consists of straight timber planks, iron pipes and corners, resting on two rings, one at the top and one at the bottom of the tower; the bars, tubes and corners are jointed at the points of inter­sec­tion. The resulting grid forms a hyper­boloid of revo­lu­tion, with a series of hori­zontal rings running across its surface. The resulting tower is a sturdy struc­ture that resists external forces while using signif­i­cantly fewer mate­rials. Mate­rial usage is signif­i­cantly lower. The primary appli­ca­tion of such a construc­tion is fore­seen for water towers and light­houses.

Subject of priv­i­lege.

An open­work tower, char­ac­terised by its struc­ture made up of straight wooden planks inter­secting one another, or steel pipes, or angled rods, arranged along the axes of the rotating body of which the tower takes the form, riveted together at the inter­sec­tion points and further­more jointed by hori­zontal rings.

Shukhov projected hundreds of hyper­boloid (“chis­eled”) water towers, they were constructed in different parts of Russia. Note that every tower had its unique partic­u­lar­i­ties — both rele­vant tech­nical and artis­tic—as a real engi­neer, Vladimir under­stood that a tower must both fit in the archi­tec­tural face of a city and make it more beau­tiful.

Big and a small light­houses of a hyper­boloid construc­tion are still preserved near Herson. One more unique hyper­boloid construc­tion of Shukhov are four bases 128 metres high for passing an elec­tricity trans­mis­sion line of State Region Elec­tricity Station of Nizhny Novgorod across the Oka near Nizhny Novgorod. Hyper­boloid construc­tions were even used as pillars of ships.

However, the most famous Shukhov’s construc­tion is the tower on Shabolovka. The history of its construc­tion starts from the state­ment of Workers’ and Peas­ants’ Defence Council in 1919 about the neces­sity of constructing a radio­sta­tion in Moscow.

State­ment of Workers’ and Peas­ants’ Defence Council.

1. To ensure a reli­able and perma­nent connec­tion of the Republic centre with Euro­pean states and outskirts of the Republic, the National Commis­sariat of Post and Tele­graph is highly urgently ordered to construct a radio­sta­tion in Moscow. It must be is equipped with devices and machines, which are the most exquisite and have a power, which is enough to execute the given task.
2. All state orga­ni­za­tions and insti­tu­tions are suggested to collab­o­rate in a proac­tive way with National Commis­sariat of Post and Tele­graph, in order to provide all the neces­sary mate­rials, railway, water and horse-drawn trans­port and to attract qual­i­fied and non-qual­i­fied workers to this job, providing them with food and shelter.
3. The workers, respon­sible for construc­tion of the radio­sta­tion, should be consid­ered drafted on their work­place and there­fore not liable for mili­tary conscrip­tion/regard­less of age/until the radio­sta­tion is finished.
4. All qual­i­fied and non-qual­i­fied workers, who work on construc­tion of the radio­sta­tion, should be given food ration of the Red Army, until сonstruc­tion of the radio­sta­tion finishes.
5. To control on fulfilling this task in short time and to ensure that the work is done prop­erly, a special commis­sion, includin workers of Commis­sariat of Post and Tele­graph, repre­sen­ta­tives of Higher Council of National Economy State Control and from Radio-Section of Prole­tarian Council of National inter­com­mu­ni­ca­tion — should be estab­lished, by order of Commis­sariat of Post and Tele­graph; members of the commis­sion should be enti­tled to a special premium within norms, provided by regu­la­tions of Commu­nity of Inde­pen­dent States about part-time work.

Сhair of Defence Council V. Ulianov/Lenin /
Moscow, Kremlin
30 July 1919.

Vladimir Shukhov devel­oped a project of a hyper­boloid tower 350 metres high. Being 50 metres higher than the Eiffel tower, a construc­tion of a Russian engi­neer makes a building more stable and four times lighter. However, as the country faced an acute shortage of iron after revo­lu­tion, they couldn’t find a quan­tity of iron, which was neces­sary for building a tower.

Shukhov develops a new project of Shabolov (the area of construc­tion was called in this way) 150 meters radiotower.

In Moscow of 1919 there was infla­tion, hunger, lack of metal, never­the­less, prepa­ra­tion for building a tower continues, though with forced pauses.

During all his produc­tive life Vladimir took notes in large-format copy­books, and the first note, which was related namely to constructing a tower, claimed : “Assembly of a ring of a tower on the basis is started on the 14th of March 1920”.

Apart from devel­oping namely the construc­tion of a tower, Vladimir makes up a unique method of construc­tion. There were no cranes of the neces­sary height at that time, and build­ings were usually constructed in forests. But according to the tele­scopic method of Shukhov, even forests were not required!

All sections of the tower were assem­bled on the ground. At first the first section was assem­bled, and then there was the second section was assem­bled inside it. On the top of the first section and the lower part of the second the blocks, which were joined by a system of wire-ropes, were settled. In order to prepare for construc­tion of the third section, upper blocks were settled on the second section, when it was on the ground. It lower part was pulled down-in order to make it pass through upper neck of the higher section, which was equal to it.

“Raising of the second section was started on 16 April 1921. On 18th it was raised for 8 metres, on 19th — for 16 metres, on 20th — for 24 metres. On 21st it was raised for a half-meter during the day. The section was estab­lished on 21st of April 1921 at 7 p.m.” – this is a note from Shukhov’s diary.

The general idea, which was applied to first two sections, -after output of the upper section a strainer was released above the lower section, and fastening of rafters began-chan­nels that form a hyper­boloid of the upper section, were joined by bolts with corre­spon­dent chan­nels that form the lower section.

The third section was raised according to the same scheme. However, an emer­gency happened during the rise of the fourth section. From V. Shukhov’s diary: “29th June 1921. The third section has broken during the rise of the fourth section. The fourth section has fallen down and has caused damage to the second and the first section at seven p.m.”

A unique photo of a tower after the emer­gency has been preserved in one of the villages of Goro­hovets area in the region of Vladimir. The case is that most high riggers that built the tower were from that area. The photo was found by a writer-area studies specialist/local history expert from Goro­hovets city-Nikolai Andreev.

The meet­ings of the commis­sion, which were inevitable after that event, have been started. Though the result of the analysis was a conclu­sion that a construc­tion was flaw­less, and it was poor- quality metal of the third section that hasn’t resisted, Shukhov was sentenced to a condi­tional shooting. Сhoosing and searching for mate­rial for constructing a tower starts again. When the works have been restarted, it was decided to build sections on earth at the same time-one in another, in order to save time.

One can see on the photo, made by V. Shukhov, that inside first two reno­vated sections the third, the fourth and the fifth sections are banded together at the same time.

On 24 October 1921 every­thing was ready on the tower for rising the third section.

From the Shukhov’s diary of 1921:

27th of October. Raising of the third section has been started. There is a cold wind. The work goes smoothly. A hexagon works very well now.

28th of October. The rise continues. The section is raised on the half of the second floor.

29th of October. The raising has finished. Fixing has begun after lunch. Addi­tional raising for 2 and 3 inches. Danger­ously big efforts are required while raising one stand of six.
One stand demanded down­ward move­ment, and tension of one ring was approx­i­mately equal to zero. Measures are to be taken to prevent such defor­ma­tions in the future.
Rising of the section is also nonuni­form. The indi­ca­tors are not exact enough.
One has to take measures to avoid such defor­ma­tions in the future. Workers and masters are afraid of minor noise Sections are to be remade with according to accu­racy of their adjoining,
and they stand only on three points, not on six.
For the wind there remains only a riveting during drilling out holes.

30th of October. Wooden adjust­ments have been disman­tled.

4th of November. Stands in the third section have been settled. Outer and inner stands are fixed to the rings. Bolts have been deliv­ered. The fourth section has been assem­bled — there are 20 stands.

18th of November. The fourth section is almost finished. I have been on a tower.

24, 25th of November. I have been on the tower. The upper stands have been settled, and the section is ready for raising.

28th November. I have been on the tower. In the evening the lower part was loaded and raised for 6 inches.

29th of November. The raising of the section has been started. It is cold on the tower — 8.6F.

30th of November. The raising continues. In the evening the section is raised up to 40 metres.

1st of December. The section as been raised to the top. The section сomes out of the sixth ring. At 12 the section has taken its place. At 2 high riggers (12 people) rose, for fixing it. It’s 10.4F.

3rd December. During the works they continue to fix the fourth section.

24th December. The fifth section is ready for a rise.

26th December. Start of raising the fifth section. […] A test to raise with three stands instead of six.

27th of December. The fifth section is raised on the half of the height.

28th December. The fifth section has gone over the fourth for 10 metres.

29 December. Raising of the fifth section is stopped for a while because of severe snow and wind […]
Fixing of a ring of the first/second section, where one needs to lay 4 rivets of 5/8 inches.

30th December. At 2 o’clock the fifth section took its place. At 4 high-riggers fixed 6 stands.

31st December. Estab­lishing the fifth section.

On the 3rd of January works on construc­tion of the tower are already continued. On the 10th of December adjust­ment of the sixth section starts.

From Shukhov’s diary of 1922:

7th of February. At 3.30 p.m. the sixth section was raised to the 4th, going through three sections in 10 working hours. We raise 12 feet in 12 minutes, tugging of a rope takes 18 minutes. We under­stand that the time is lost. We need to take into consid­er­a­tion that 1 foot of rising takes 3 minutes.

8th of February. We have raised up the half of the sixth section at 3 o’clock.

9th of February. In the morning the sixth section has been estab­lished. The weather is calm, 17.6F. By 4 p.m. 8 stands are fixed. The tower is beau­tiful, but the fifth section has rare net.

10th of February. All 24 stands of the sixth section are estab­lished.

14th of February. A ring of the sixth section is fixed, and, in fact, the tower is finished. Estab­lishing of the top has been started, and we plan to finish the work in 10 days.
The work on polishing and estab­lishing of two lower sections has lasted for five months. 2.5 years have passed from the day of signing the contract with Elec­tro­con­nec­tion on building the tower. All the work has lasted for 2 years.

21st of February. The upper house is raised, and rising of a wooden mast has started. A draft of a flag is given.

22nd of February. The upper mast is raised and building of cross-arms has been started.

23th of February. One cross-arm is raised, with pulling. Raising of the second cross-arm has started.

28th of February. The building of the tower has finished, and a mast is fixed.

14th of March. The first meeting of the commis­sion on accep­tance of the tower by National Commis­sariat of Post and Tele­graph.

21th of March. An act of handing over a tower. There are arti­cles in news­pa­pers “Izvestiya” and “Rabochaya Moskva”.

According to the photo of the tower, made by Vladimir, one can judge, how the region of Moscow, where the tower stayed, looked like at that time. The most famous Two photos of Shukhov tower on Shabolovka, made in 1929, belong to a classic of Sovi­etic construc­tivism in photog­raphy-Alexander Rodchenko.

On 19 March 1922 a trans­mis­sion unit of Shabolov radio­sta­tion was tested, and in September 1922 the first radio­pro­gramme from Shabolovka was launched-a concert of Russian music.

A super­struc­ture of the tower has changed many times for tech­nical needs of radio­sta­tions. Several rings, which draw together sections, were finally added to the tower.

In 1939 the tower acquired an ability to broad­cast TV signal and has become a symbol of Soviet TV for many years.

In the end of XX century and in our days several big hyper­boloid construc­tions were built in different coun­tries. Famous foreign archi­tects, which have devel­oped them, admit a great contri­bu­tion that great Russian engi­neer Vladimir Shukhov made in devel­oping such construc­tions.