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 Posts and Telegraphs 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 Posts and Telegraphs, 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 Posts and Telegraphs, 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 Posts and Telegraphs; 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.