1872: An Innovative Swiss Bridge Engineer is Born

February 6, 1872

Civil engineer Robert Maillart was born in Bern, Switzerland. Maillart left a lasting imprint on his profession through his aesthetical approach to bridge construction and his innovative use of structural reinforced concrete for that purpose. Two prominent examples of Maillart’s work are the Salginatobel and Schwandbach Bridges that he designed and built. 

Salginatobel Bridge

The Salginatobel Bridge, which was completed in 1930, spans the Salgina Valley ravine in Schiers, Switzerland. This structure is the earliest surviving three-hinged, hollow box arch bridge to be designed by Maillart. His concrete hollow box design, which involves joining the concrete arch ring and the concrete deck with longitudinal concrete sidewalls to give a structure the cross-section of the hollow box, has greatly influenced bridge-building efforts worldwide. In 1991, the Salginatobel Bridge was declared by the American Society of Civil Engineers to be an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. It was the first concrete bridge to receive that designation. 

The Schwandbach Bridge completed by Maillart in 1933 – is located near Berne. This reinforced concrete arch bridge has likewise been praised for its design, especially in terms of how the deck is thicker than the arch just below it and also stiff enough to prevent that slender arch from buckling. 

Maillart died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1940 at the age of 68.  About seven years later, images of several of the bridges he designed were featured in a highly acclaimed photographic exhibit at New City’s Museum of Modern Art.

For more information on Robert Maillart, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Maillart.

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