Postdoctoral Research: Structural Engineering and the Architecture of Nineteenth-Century American Steelworks

Project: Research project

Project Details


This Postdoctoral Fellowship allows the co-PI to apply the combined methodological tools of structural engineering, industrial archeology, and architectural history to examine the engineering of nineteenth-century American steel works buildings. Working with an advisory committee of civil engineers and architectural historians at The Pennsylvania State University, the co-PI is engaging in the intensive study of structural analysis using buildings from historically important steel works as exercises. Training includes a focus on the graphical methods widely used during the 19th and early 20th centuries --the steel industry's most innovative period of building design. The c0-PI is augmenting his experience in documenting historic bridges with a workshop in documenting historic structures. Using these new skills as a foundation, the co-PI is analyzing selected structures through both field observations and archival materials. This methodology is intended to familiarize the co-PI with the range of choices and constraints confronting designers. Comparison with the actual decisions made by the designers - as found in the building themselves - demonstrates the frequency with which engineers and designers made decisions that based, not on clear-cut and mathematical calculations, but on a complex interplay among cultural values, economic considerations, intuitive hunches, and technological knowledge and experience. The study broadens the historiography of industrial architecture and the study of industrial and other non-high style buildings with a scientifically informed approach. The results of the study help the historic preservation community as it seeks to assess, preserve, and interpret the few remaining early structures of a heavy industry central to the rise of the United States as an industrial power. In addition, the project seeks to impact engineering and architectural education. The co-PI's plans to interact with undergraduate engineering students at the host institution and to use the fellowship to focus his career on teaching engineering and architecture students about both the technical and social aspects of their own milieus. Finally, the co-PI intends to present findings at the host institution, conferences, and ultimately incorporate them into a monograph on the architecture and engineering of the American steel industry.

Effective start/end date2/1/011/31/04


  • National Science Foundation: $83,265.00


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