Cast-iron architecture

Cast-iron architecture is a form of architecture developed through the use of cast iron. It was a prominent style in the Industrial Revolution era when cast iron became relatively cheap and modern steel had not yet been developed.

Despite the early incorporation of cast or cast iron into engineering structures such as bridges (Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale, 1779, Pont des Arts in Paris, 1801), the architects continued to use traditional materials, while the taste academic continued to consider them “in bad taste”. Industrial architecture was the first to incorporate iron instead of wood, initially as a measure of protection against fires, which had become very common since the introduction of the steam engine. The factory building that William Strutt in Derby (1792-1793) used massively brick and cast iron pillars. The first factory without any part of wood was built in Ditherington (in the vicinity of Shrewsbury ) in 1796-1797 ( Ditherington Flax Mill ). The English factory model of the nineteenth century was that of a structure of beams and pillars of cast iron with brick walls and vaults. The foundry was also used massively for the implementation of street furniture in the cities planned with hygienist criteria of the 19th century, with examples that became emblematic: in Madrid the Fernandina street lamps (1832), or in Paris the Wallace fountains (1870) , the Morris columns (1868) or the Guimard edifices ( art nouveau style, in the mouths of the Metro ( Hector Guimard , 1900-).) All kinds of architectural hardware , whose origin can be traced in England at least since 1734, began to be applied massively in the mid-nineteenth century in all types of buildings (given the cheaper cost), imposing an aesthetic eclectic , popular or kitsch and a uniform finishes that deplored those that they longed for manual craft work (such as William Morris or John Ruskin ).

Among the first examples of monumental architecture that incorporated iron was the dome of the Halle aux blés (“grain market” of Paris, François-Joseph Bélanger, 1811). The Commissioner’s House of the Royal Naval Dockyard (Bermuda, Edward Holl , 1820) is considered the first house built with an iron structure. In 1836, the church of San Leopoldo (Follonica) , by Alessandro Manetti and Carlo Reishammer incorporated for the first time in the ecclesiastical architecture elements of exposed iron.

Central third of the 19th century
The technological improvements were happening. Corrugated iron (or galvanized corrugated iron – CGI for its acronym in English) was invented in the decade of the 1820s by the British Henry Robertson Palmer , architect and engineer of the London Dock Company . Its use extended into rural architecture in the United States and other countries. Since the 1840s, the innovations of the iron and steel industry were generalizing the use of iron plates, “double T” profiles and a higher quality steel and lower and lower price ( Bessemer converter , 1855). In 1867, Charles Drake of the Patent Concrete Building Company , patented the use of iron shuttering panels instead of wood.

They began to build cast-iron buildings (“cast iron buildings”) especially in the SoHo of New York ( Building EV Haughwout , John P. Gaynor , 27 1857), highlighting the constructions of James Bogardus ( 63 Nassau Street , 1844, 254-260 Canal Street , 1857, 75 Murray Street , 1958 85 Leonard Street , 1861, Iron Clad Building , 1862). In London, an 18-meter diameter iron and glass dome had been erected on the Coal Exchange ( James Bunstone Bunning , 32 1847-1849).

In mid-nineteenth-century Paris, the library of Santa Genoveva (by Henri Labrouste , 1843-1850) stood out, with a Neo-Renaissance style on the outside but inside it showed the metal structure. Similar resource was applied in the Museum of Natural History of the University of Oxford , this neo-Gothic style (1855, Henry Acland , with the support of John Ruskin ).

The refinement in the iron foundry ended up getting its acceptance even as a noble material for the realization of sculptures that until then were reserved for bronze (” Kasli iron”, in the Urals, 1860).

The social acceptance of the iron seen for the visible architectural elements had been produced with the extraordinary success of the architecture of iron and glass from the construction of the spectacular greenhouses of Chatsworth ( Joseph Paxton , 1837-1840), the Palm House of the Royal Kew Botanical Garden (architect Decimus Burton and founder Richard Turner , 1841-1849) and, above all, the Crystal Palace by Joseph Paxton (1851), which also demonstrated the possibilities of new materials for prefabricated architecture (it was assembled, dismantled and reassembled in a very short time, despite its extraordinary dimensions). Similar criteria were applied to the coverage of new types of buildings demanded by the economic expansion: commercial galleries , covered markets and railway architecture , which it built throughout Europe monumental railway stations . Railway engineering built bridges of great daring and beauty, such as Théophile Seyrig’s in Porto ( Puente María Pía , 1877).

Last third of the XIX
By the time of the construction of the Garnier Opera (1861-1875) iron was already used naturally and profusely in all kinds of structural elements (especially pillars, beams and plates joined by rivets ).

The Chicago fire of 1871 gave way to a massive urban reconstruction, with the first steel frame skyscrapers and the new concepts of form and function that characterize the so-called Chicago school .

The most impressive iron buildings of the century were built by French engineers for the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1889 : the Galerie des machines ( Victor Contamin -architects Ferdinand Dutert and Stephen Sauvestre ) and the Tour Eiffel ( Alexandre Gustave Eiffel ).

The emulation of European and American technical achievements led to a real ” iron fever ” 44 in Latin America, especially in the fastest growing cities, such as the rubber rush ( Iquitos , Manaus ). In Mexico “iron palaces” were built in the capital (1888-1891) and in Orizaba (Eiffel, 1891-1894).
Structural use
Cast iron is not a good structural material for handling tension or bending moments because of its brittleness and relatively low tensile strength compared to steel and wrought iron. In a few instances bridges and buildings built with cast iron failed. Cast iron has good compressive strength and was successfully used for certain structural components in well designed old bridges and buildings. Puddled wrought iron, which was introduced after The Iron Bridge was constructed, was a much better structural material. Puddled iron became widely available after 1800 and eventually became the preferred material for bridges, rails, ships and buildings until new steel making processes were developed in the late 19th century.

Cast iron has been used for centuries and was used in architecture in the pre-modern period; for instance, the 13th century Indian “Konark Sun Temple” used iron beams. It was in 18th-century Britain that new production methods first allowed cast iron to be produced cheaply enough and in large enough quantities to regularly be used in large building projects. New production methods included using steam engine powered blast air, which allowed higher blast furnace temperatures, which in turn allowed the use of more limestone to be added with the iron ore charge. The higher furnace temperatures made the slag produced with the additional lime to flow more freely. The calcium and magnesium in the lime helped tie up sulfur, which allowed the use of coke for fuel. The higher furnace temperatures also increased the furnace capacity.

One of the first important projects was The Iron Bridge in Shropshire, a precedent-setting structure made almost entirely of cast iron. However, it was grossly over-designed, and the makers (principally Abraham Darby) suffered financially as a result. The quality of the iron used in the bridge is not high, and nearly 80 brittle cracks are visible in the present structure. Later designers and engineers, such as Thomas Telford, improved both the design and quality of the material in bridges (for example, at Buildwas upstream of Coalbrookdale) and aqueducts (such as the world-famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales).

Architectural use
Cast iron was first used in pagoda construction in Tang Dynasty China. Texts written in the 9th century by the Japanese Buddhist monk Ennin describe in detail the cast-iron pagodas and statues widespread in China at the time. Persecution of Buddhism in China led to the destruction of many of these structures. Ditherington Flax Mill, built in 1796, is considered the first iron-framed building in the world.

The Commissioner’s House of the Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda designed by Edward Holl and built in the 1820s is considered to be the first residence that used cast iron in its structural framework. In the 1850s the cheapness and availability of cast iron led James Bogardus of New York City to advocate and design buildings using cast-iron components. Cast iron could be cast into a wide array of shapes and designs, allowing elaborate facades that were far cheaper than traditional stone-carved ones. These facades could also be painted a wide array of colours. Many of these buildings had elaborate neo-classical or Romanesque designs. Mostly used on commercial and industrial buildings, there are many surviving examples, especially in the SoHo and Tribeca areas of New York and the western downtown area of Louisville, Kentucky. One of the most intact ensembles in the American West can be seen in the Skidmore/Old Town Historic District, a National Historic Landmark in Portland, Oregon. In Europe the best-preserved examples of Victorian cast-iron warehouses can be viewed in Glasgow, Scotland, a city which experienced an enormous expansion in the late 19th century. Another Victorian-era cast-iron structure is the Covered Market in Valletta, Malta, which was built between 1859 and 1861.

In the old cities of the southern United States, the use of cast iron in architecture was pervasive in the late 1800s. New Orleans and Richmond have particularly concentrated and well-preserved examples of cast iron, often in the form of elaborate porches. In New Orleans’ French Quarter multi story iron porches cantilever off of masonry walls where as Richmond porches in neighborhoods such as Church Hill and Jackson Ward are more often single-story structures resting on brick piers. Numerous foundries in both cities produced unique ornamental and structural designs in iron.

Cast-iron columns had the advantage of being slender, compared with masonry columns capable of supporting similar weight. That saved space in factories and other kinds of buildings, and enabled architects of theaters, churches and synagogues to improve sight lines when supporting balconies.

Cast iron also became the standard support structure in the construction of greenhouses, and this type of design led to the monumental Crystal Palace built in London in 1851. Designed by Joseph Paxton, the glass-and-cast-iron structure was much imitated around the world.

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In the late 19th century modern steel was developed, and it proved far more suitable than cast iron for structural and support purposes. The fashion for cast-iron facades also faded in this era. Many of the innovations of the cast-iron period were carried over to the new steel-frame buildings, and were essential to the development of the modern skyscraper.

Catastrophic failures
Cast iron has some architectural advantages, and some weaknesses. It is strong in compression, but weak in tension and bending. Its strength and stiffness deteriorate when subjected to high heat, such as in a fire. In the early era of the industrial revolution cast iron was often used in factory construction, in part owing to the misconception that such structures would be fireproof. William Strutt pioneered this innovation, building a number of industrial buildings using cast-iron supports. Cast iron was strong enough to support the heavy machinery but was vulnerable to the frequent fires that would occur in such factories. There were also numerous building collapses caused by fracture of brittle cast-iron beams. These often occurred when the bottom side of the beam was in tension, often from defects such as blow holes within the beams. Such internal defects were common in large beams.

Cast iron was also used widely in bridge construction for the new railway system, sometimes with horrific results, especially when cast-iron girders were used instead of arches. The first use was at the Water Street terminus of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 to a design by William Fairbairn, a successful design which was demolished about 1900 owing to the widespread concern about cast iron under bridges on the rail network in Britain. Robert Stephenson built a longer bridge over the river Dee, mistakenly adding wrought iron trusses to strengthen the structure. This led to the Dee bridge disaster of 1847, which killed five when the bridge collapsed.

Following the disaster such trussed bridges were demolished and cast iron was replaced with wrought iron composite beams formed by riveting sheets together, and then steel rolled beams when steel became available in the late 1860s and 1870s. Cast iron continued to be used in railway under bridges, and there were a number of serious failures involving loss of life. The most serious accident occurred in 1879 with the Tay Bridge disaster when the centre part of the bridge collapsed in a storm as an express train was passing over. The whole train was lost with more than 75 passengers and crew. The weakest parts of the bridge were cast-iron lugs holding tie bars in place, and cast iron in new bridges was effectively abandoned after the disaster. Most small cast-iron beam structures were demolished and replaced after the Norwood Junction rail accident of 1891.

Urban bridge engineering
Between the mid-nineteenth and the first third of the twentieth century a remarkable technical progression developed (with some spectacular catastrophe -union of the Tay Bridge , 1879-) in the construction of iron bridges ( Wheeling Suspension Bridge , 1849, Stadlauer Ostbahnbrücke 48 In Vienna, 1868-1870, Brooklyn Bridge in New York, 1870-1883, Don Luis I Bridge in Oporto, 1881-1886, Tower Bridge in London, 1886-1894, Suspension Bridge in Bilbao , by Ferdinand Anodin 49 and Alberto del Palacio , 1887-1893, Vierendeel bridge in Avengelm, 1896-1902, Manhattan Bridge in New York, 1909, Hercílio Luz Bridge in Florianópolis, 1922-1926, Golden Gate in San Francisco, 1933-1937) , which continues until today.

The great stages of the metallic architecture: chronology and remarkable works

The bridges
1777-1779: Iron Bridge or Coalbrookdale Bridge, one of the first metal bridges built.
1801: Bridge of the Arts
1902: Vierendeel Beam and Vierendeel Bridge by Arthur Vierendeel

The carpentry
1811: Dome of the Halle aux blés of François-Joseph Bélanger (now the Paris Stock Exchange )
1826: Passage du Grand-Cerf
1834: Trusses of the National Museum of Natural History of France , in Paris
1843-1850: Library of Santa Genoveva of Henri Labrouste
1902: Church Notre-Dame-du-Travail , church designed by Jules Astruc , Paris

The markets
1837: triangular truss by Camille Polonceau
1851: Saint-Lazare station by Eugène Flachat , light of 40 m
1851: The Crystal Palace of London by Paxton
1878: Galerie des Machines (Exposition Universelle, Paris), first portique à 2 articulations by Henry de Dion (now Hangar Y in Meudon, Gymnase Jean-Jaurè in Paris, Usine DMC after Bull and finally Technopôle in Belfort), portée 35.60 m
1889: Gallery of the machines of Paris of Victor Contamin , light of 115 m

The plates
From 1840: Generalization of iron plates in Paris: double-T profile

The facades
Cast-iron buildings in England and the United States
1847: James Bogardus factory in New York

Les pans de fer
1862: House project à bread de fer by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
1871: Mill of the Meunier factory in Noisiel by Jules Saulnier
Structure poteaux-dalles in steel ( steel-frame construction ) – Skyscraper
1879: First Leiter Building by William Le Baron Jenney in Chicago

Skyscraper of the Chicago School
Industrial property and Parisian department store
1905: The Samaritaine , by Frantz Jourdain
1905: Property of Parisien libéré , of Chedanne , 124 Rue Réaumur
1906: Great bazaar of Rue de Rennes

Steel facade panels
1939: House of the People of Clichy by Eugène Beaudouin and Jean Prouvé
International style glass and steel towers. First curtain walls
1949: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago
1952: Lever House of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in New York
1958: Caisse de réassurances, rue des Victoires de Paris by Jean Balladur
1960: Albert Tour , Édouard Albert , Croulebarde street

Geodetic structures
1953: first geodesic dome for Ford factories in Michigan by Richard Buckminster Fuller
1967: Biosphère of the Universal Exhibition of Montreal (Expo 67) by Richard Buckminster Fuller
1985: La Géode de la Cité des sciences et de l’industrie , in La Villette, 36 m in diameter, built by architect Adrien Fainsilber and engineer Gérard Chamayou , and whose triangular, non-planar faces are reflective spherical triangles.

Three-dimensional Nappes
1972: Olympic Stadium in Munich by Frei Otto
High-Tech structures
1977: Georges-Pompidou National Center for Art and Culture of Piano and Rogers , in Paris, – steel tubes with articulated brackets with tie rods for leveling panels associated with mobile partitions, with supporting castings on steel columns and windscreens in the form of apparent braces in the shape of a cross of San Andres in front of glass curtain walls.

Membrane structures
2001: Eden Project by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners, Saint Austell Cornouilles, England, ecological greenhouse, two biomes serre-bulles made of “paper” membranes supported by steel lattice structures that give a form of bubbles stuck between them (with deformation computer controlled).
Tubular structures
2002: Mediateca de Sendai de Toyo Ito

Art Nouveau Structures
Eiffel Tower , Grand Palais , Petit Palais , Inéa catwalk …

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