Šuchovs bent gridshells

Department: Architecture
Active Dates: April 2020 - ongoing
Principal Investigator: Eike Schling (HKU) and Rainer Barthel (TUM)

Project Description

At the turn of the 19th century, the Russian engineer Vladimir Šuchov developed a globally outstanding language for steel construction. His extremely filigree constructions – from lattice shell to the suspended roof – still impress with their economy, lightness and – not the least – simplicity. Šuchov combined a profound geometric knowledge with deep mechanical understanding to reach an astonishingly pragmatic design. A decisive strategy for simplification was the deliberate (elastic and plastic) deformation of Z, L and I steel profiles into continuously curved elements. As a result, Šuchov was able to assemble complex double-curved grids using only repetitive components and simple flat rivet connections.

This research analyzes the curvature of Šuchov’s grids along four exemplary structures with increasing geometric complexity: the hyperbolic NiGRES tower at the Oka, the rotationally symmetric hanging roof in Niznij, the cylindrical barrel grid in Grozny, and the double-curved gridshell in Vyksa.

For the first time, the three axes of curvature of each rod are systematically examined. This way, we can detect all deformations of the bars and their associated bending stress. The results enable to draw conclusions about the construction process, the prefabrication and the load-bearing behavior of Šuchov’s lattice constructions and thus form an important part of the building research and repair measures.


  • Schling, Eike; Rainer Barthel (2021): Šuchovs gebogene Netze – Krümmung und Verformung. in ‘Vladimir Šuchov’, Ed. Rainer Graefe 2020, Innsbruck. (to be published )

    Schling, Eike; Rainer Barthel (2021): Šuchov’s bent networks: The impact of network curvature on Šuchov’s gridshell designs. In: STRUCTURES Volume 29, February 2021, Pages 1496-1506. DOI: org/10.1016/j.istruc.2020.12.021

Anticipated Impact

The curvature analysis reveals the extent of Šuchov’s artful play with elastic bending and this paints a new picture of his timeless constructions. We hope this new understanding will inform historical interpretations as well as modern developments of doubly curved steel structures.


 Beckh, Matthias (2012): Hyperbolische Stabwerke. Suchovs Gittertürme als Wegweiser in den modernen Leichtbau. 1. Auflage. München: Institut für internationale Architektur-Dokumentation (Edition Detail).

Graefe, Rainer; Gappoev, Murat; Pertschi, Ottmar (1990): Vladimir G. Šuchov1853-1939. Die Kunst Der Sparsamen Konstruktion. Unter Mitarbeit von Klaus Bach. 1st Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt.

Nozhova, Ekaterina (2016): Networks of construction. Vladimir Shukhov. Unter Mitarbeit von Uta Hassler. Munich: Hirmer.

Schling, Eike (2018): Repetitive Structures. Design and Construction of Curved Support Structures with Repetitive Parameters.

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