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Anton Tedesko and the Introduction of Thin Shell Concrete Roofs in the United States

Eric M. Hines, A.M.ASCE

Research Assistant Professor, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts Univ., Medford, MA 02155; Structural Engineer, LeMessurier Consultants, Cambridge, MA 02139. E-mail:

David P. Billington, Hon.M.ASCE

Gordon Y. S. Wu Professor of Engineering, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton Univ., Princeton, NJ 08544. E-mail:


In a 1990 talk at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Anton Tedesko (1903-1994) remarked:

A myth exists that engineering is only that which can be calculated. There may be a certain beauty in analysis, but it may well not be connected with reality. Qualitative judgment, based on experience is important, even when it cannot be expressed in exact numbers (Tedesko 1990).

Such comments were typical of Tedesko's later career, when he discussed structural failures resulting from overdependence on analysis and lack of sound engineeringjudgment (Schlaich 1993). Tedesko's convictions about the proper balance between detailed analysis and qualitative judgement had been heavily influenced by his work in bringing German thin shell concrete roof technology to the United States in the 1930s (Billington 1982).

After nearly 2 decades of thin shell concrete roof construction in the United States under Tedesko's leadership, American engineers eventually devoted significant attention to the complex differential equations developed by Tedesko's German colleagues at the design and construction firm Dyckerhoff and Widmann A.-G. in Wiesbaden-Biebrich, Such attention was exemplified in the 1952 publication of ASCE's Manual 31 (ASCE 1952). However, recent archival research coupled with studies of Tedesko's own work in the United States and his innovations in thin shell concrete roof construction show that he relied more heavily on close cooperation with contractors and extensive structural testing than on the application of such complex analysis.

These studies also reveal that it was not the German technology itself but rather Tedesko's approach to this technology that ensured the success of American thin shells. Tedesko once stated, "Shells in [the United States] were never copies of designs used abroad (Tedesko 1970, p. 2). Although Tedesko initially built thin shell concrete roofs under the mystique of German patents, he did not apply these patents in his actual work. The German shells were important in the United States only in that they proved the feasibility of such work and provided Tedesko with valuable test data. While promoting thin shells in the United States using images of German designs, he redeveloped thin concrete shell technology to work with American construction practices. The necessity for such redevelopment reflected the fact that these structures

depended as much on their construction and political approval as on their design and analysis. In turn, construction and politics often depended on local personalities and local labor. Even the reinforced concrete from which they were constructed was largely local, requiring quality control that was specific to each job site (Saliklis and Billington 2003).

Later in his career, when Tedesko warned about the potential pitfalls of complex analysis, he commonly referenced structural failures both in the Unites States and Germany. In particular, Dyckerhoff and Widmann had relied heavily on analysis in their design and construction of an airplane hangar in Cottbus, Germany that collapsed in early 1934. This failure, caused by creep in the concrete, contributed to the decline of thin shell construction in Germany during the same period that thin shells gained acceptance in the United States.

While Tedesko's work in the United States bears a clear imprint of American society, his background in thin shells was characteristically German. Tedesko himself was Austrian, and the story of his work demonstrates the importance of individual engineers working across cultures to develop engineering innovations. Tedesko had worked with Dyckerhoff and Widmann for 2 years before coming to America. During his time at the German company, Tedesko was exposed to conceptual design, rigorous analysis, and testing of structural models and full-scale thin con-

crete shells. '

Dyckerhoff and Widmann engineers Franz Dischinger (1887- 1953) and Ulrich Finsterwalder (1897-1989) had developed several analytical and structural testing programs by 1930 when Tedesko joined the design and construction firm. During Tedesko's short stay in Wiesbaden-Biebrich (1930--1932), the firm's experimental, analytical and construction activity continued to flourish. Finsterwalder and Hubert Rusch (1903-1979) completed their analytical work on the behavior of shallow cylindrical barrel shells (Finsterwalder 1933; RUsch 1931). During this time, Dyckerhoff and Widmann developed tables for the analysis of short barrel shells based on a salt storage hall in Tertre, Belgium. Furthermore, Finsterwalder spearheaded the construction of the first large-scale, long, shallow barrel shell in Budapest, and Dischinger realized his test structure for a doubly curved surface on a square ground plan.

In 1932, Dyckerhoff and Widmann sent Tedesko as its representative in America to the Chicago design and construction firm Roberts and Schaefer. By 1950, Tedesko's work there had generated several million square feet of American thin shells and two major innovations: the rib less shell and the wide-spanning, short barrel shell. During these 18 years, Roberts and Schaefer emerged as the dominant figure in the design and construction of American thin shell concrete roofs. Table 1 lists key structures designed by Dyckerhoff and Widmann and Roberts and Schaefer that played a role in the German and American development of thin shell concrete roofs. Columns 1-4 in Table 1 list the name, date of completion, location, and type of these shells. Columns 5-8 list the di-










~ ~ 0 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 0 0 ~ M 00 ~ r...:r...:O:COo\o\o\o\MMo\O r-ir...:

8 8 ~ ~ g ~ g ~ g 8 ~ S

M M M M M M M M ~ ~ M 0

~ 8 8 ~ ~ ~ ~ 8 8 8 g ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ d


o 0 0 \0 \0 0 M


~ ~ MOO 0 ~ q ~ 0 ~ 0

Ir.OC"ir-..:...oo\O\Ov1..o 0\

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ 'C N N d N d

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ d ~ N ~ d ~ ~ ~ d ~


o 0 0 0 q 0 0 0 ~ 0 0 a 0 ~ 0 0 a 0 0

~ ~ ~ d ~ ~ ~ ~ ~. ~ ~ ~ . d ~ ~ .

('I ~, ~~ _ " ~ N \0 ~ ~ 00 ~

o 0 0 0 q 0

('1 M c-i ("'1 0\ ("I l(j \Q ~ M

mensions. Domes are characterized such that w=L=D =diameter of the dome in plan. Column 9 indicates the significance of each shell.

Thin Shell Concrete Roofs in Germany

Although the construction of the 1922 Zeiss planetarium test structure in lena marks the official beginning of thin shell concrete roofs in Germany, firms such as Dyckerhoff and Widmann had already amassed significant experience with vaulted reinforced concrete construction prior to World War I. By 1909, Fritz von Emperger had published several examples of reinforced concrete domes and barrel vaults in his Handbuch fiir Eisenbetonbau (Handbook of Reinforced Concrete Construction) (von Emperger 1909). These domes and barrel vaults had shell thicknesses on the order of 3 in. (8 ern). The barrel vaults were designed and analyzed as arches, with spans of up to 66 ft (20 m) and tension ties spaced approximately 10 ft (3 rn) on center. Domes were designed according to the existing membrane theory of thin shells. For example, the hemispherical dome over the Army Museum in Munich had a diameter of 55 ft (16.7 rn) and a thickness of 3 in. (8 ern) at the base, Based on the membrane theory and assuming constant thickness of the dome, the stresses at the base of such a dome under its own weight can be calculated as

where a=shell radius; h=shell thickness; and q=vh, where -y = density of concrete. Assuming normal weight concrete, the stresses at the base of the dome under its own weight do not depend on the shell thickness and are calculated as

150 pef 'J

--- X 27.5 ft=29 psi [2 kg/em'

144 .

None of the authors contributing. to the Handbucb s description of the Army Museum dome, however, focused on the the low values of these stresses and the corresponding possibility for larger spans with thinner shells.

Soon after the publication of von Ernperger's Handbuch. in 1912 Dyckerhoff and Widmann constructed the then largest thin concrete dome for the church in St. Blasien (Dischinger 1925) (Table 1). One year later, they completed the Century Hall in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland). The Century Hall was constructed of meridional arches and circumferential rings and became the first vaulted structure to surpass in clear span the Roman Pantheon of 125 A.D. Both the dome in St. Blasien and Century Hall in Breslau established the Dyckerhoff and Widmann engineers as leading designers of vaulted concrete construction 10 years prior to the first dome in Jena. Therefore, when Walter Bauersfeld (1879-1959) of the Zeiss firm designed his first thin shell concrete dome in collaboration with Dischinger in 1922, neither the size of the dome nor the methods for assessing its structural behavior were novel. Instead, the dome was distinguished by its extraordinary lightness [about 1-114 in. (3 em) thick] and its clever means of construction. Zeiss built the dome to test a new planetarium unit for the German Museum in Munich (Villiger 1926). The only available location for this dome was on the roof of an existing Zeiss factory building, The low surplus of load carrying capacity in the building necessitated that the dome be as light as possible (RUsch 1973, p. 9). Bauersfeld achieved a light structure by developing a geodesic dome constructed of pre-

Fig. 1. Zeiss network for the 1922 Jena test shell (Villiger 1926, p. 11)


cisely machined iron rods (Flacheisenstabe) and connections. This "Zeiss network," shown in Fig. 1, became famous for its strength to support several construction workers without additional falsework.

For advice on creating a smooth surface inside the dome, Bauersfeld turned to Mergler from the Niirnberg office of Dyckerhoff and Widmann, who had already built many reinforced concrete structures for Zeiss (Bauersfeld 1942; Joedicke 1963), Mergler suggested guniting concrete against a smooth surface hung just beneath the Zeiss network. This process, called the "Torkret" process in German, had only recently been developed. Covered with quick hardening cement-another recent innovation that allowed for guniting of vertical surfaces-Bauersfeld's Zeiss network thus became the concrete dome's reinforcement. Dischinger, who had been with Dyckerhoff and Widmann since 1913,'quickly became involved in the design and construction of this first dome and worked closely with Bauersfeld "to-develop what was to become known as the "Zeiss-Dywidag" (Z-D) process for a wide array of shell structures. The specific patents sought by Zeiss and Dyckerhoff and Widmann in relation to this process were the design of the network connections and the process of constructing a thin shell concrete dome with an embedded Zeiss network. As more concrete domes exhibited poor acoustics for planetarium presentations (Villiger 1926), these patents gradually became obsolete in the broader German and American development of thin shell concrete roofs. The momentum gathered during this early cooperation, however, was formative in the marketing strategy for Z-D shells both in Germany and abroad.

Bauersfeld and Dischinger's first opportunity to refine the Z-D process arose in 1925 again in Jena where they designed a shallow dome that was approximately the same size as the dome over the Church in St. Blasien built a decade earlier. This new dome over the Schott glass works factory was constructed with half the thickness of the St. Blasien dome and to withstand substantially higher loads. Dischinger compared the dome's 1/667 thicknessto-span ratio to an eggshell, which he claimed to be three times thicker than the Schott dome (Dischinger 1925, p. 98).

Dischinger recognized the economic potential in designing such shells to cover rectangular as opposed to circular plans. Concrete was less expensive than steel, and such shells exhibited great resistance to fire damage. From 1923-1926, Dyckerhoff and Widmann constructed barrel roofs for factory buildings belonging to themselves and the Zeiss company. They also constructed


Fig. 2. Dischinger shell loaded by the Dyckerhoff and Widmann engineers in 1932 in Wiesbaden-Biebrich, Germany (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archi ve)

shells for the explicit purpose of structural testing, and erected the first commercial barrel shell (Billington 1990, p. 10). In 1927 after 3 years of small-scale testing and Finsterwalder's development of the bending theory for cylindrical barrel shells, Dyckerhoff and Widmann took on their first large-scale barrel vault project for the Frankfurt Market Hall. Dischinger introduced the project in the Handbuch fur Eisenbetonbau in terms of its large scale and emphasized Dyckerhoff and Widmann's structural testing in preparation for the project (Dischinger 1928, pp. 320-321).

Dischinger and Finsterwalder later described their 1931 market hall in Budapest as a refinement of the Frankfurt project (Dischinger and Finsterwalder 1932, pp. 26-33). Not only did they flatten the shell roof significantly from d/w= 1/3.5 in Frankfurt to 116.3 in Budapest, but they also made the edge beams deeper and more slender. The summer before Tedesko left for the United States, Dyckerhoff and. Widmann built the Dischinger shell, shown in Fig. 2. This test shell performed well under unbalanced loads and point loads, and it demonstrated substantial resistance to buckling. Its crown deflected only 0.08 in. (2.05 mm) in relation to the COrners without cracking under 61 psf (300 kg/rrr') of dead load. The ratio of this deflection to the shell's span was 1/5,000 (Dischinger and Finsterwalder 1932, p.4l).

Dischinger had considered developing a square plan, doubly curved shell as early as 1923, but the mathematics had proven too complicated (Dischinger 1930, p. 6). He and the other engineers at Dyckerhoff and Widmann first spent 8 years carefully developing the analysis and construction details of barrel shells with a single direction of curvature. Based on these 8 years of initial development, Dischinger finally created an approach for calculating the stresses in his doubly curved shell, which he was then free to build. One might understand such an analytically driven approach to design as conservative; however, the Cottbus Hangar collapse proved that this approach can be dangerous when not checked by a thorough knowledge of structural materials. Furthermore, while this rigorous scientific approach strongly influenced thin concrete shell roof forms in the United States, such approaches have typically not generated the most visually compel-

ling thin shell forms. .

Dischinger boxed-in his extremely thin doubly curved shell with massive edge diaphragms. He thereby closely approximated the boundary conditions that he needed for his analysis to work, but he sacrificed the dome's potential to appear as light as it

actually was. Later, shell builders such as Heinz Isler and Felix Candela did not place such a high premium on exact mathematical stress calculations, but they managed to create forms covering square plans that were at least as efficient and certainly more visually compelling than those created by the Dyckerhoff and Widmann engineers (Billington 1983, pp. 171-193; 213-232). In comparison to Isler and Candela, Dischinger was more analyst than designer. Fortunately, it was Dischinger's propensity for combining analysis, structural testing, and construction rather than his love of complicated math that influenced Tedesko.

Early American Thin Shell Concrete Roof Construction: 1932-1938

After the successful completion of several large-scale domes and barrels in Europe, Dyckerhoff and Widmann decided to expand their operations to the United States. Tedesko, who had prior experience both living and working in the United States, was sent to Roberts and Schaefer in Chicago for a trial period of 2 years as an employee of Dyckerhoff and Widmann. Tedesko came to Chicago through an older friend from Vienna, John E. Kalinka, with whom he had lived and worked during his previous travels in the United States.

Tedesko's early correspondence with Kalinka regarding Z-D shells in the United States was not always optimistic, and both men recognized that construction costs would determine the shells' feasibility. Nevertheless, the interest on both sides remained strong due to the friendship between Tedesko and Kalinka and especially the trust that Dyckerhoff and Widmann placed in this friendship. For the German company, shell construction was "a matter of trust" (Tedesko 193Ia), and such trust was the single most important aspect of this new business relationship.

Dyckerhoff and Widmann's response to Roberts and Schaefer's official proposal asked for 4% of the contract price in the preparation of calculations and drawings for the first trial structures to be built in the United States. Admitting that this 4% was higher than the traditional design costs of reinforced concrete, they stressed that such a cost increase was "many times counterbalanced by large savings in material" (Tedesko 1931 b). It was to these savings in materials which the German company attributed the rapid proliferation ot thin shells built by their firm in Europe despite tough economic times. They went on to stress the "daring" nature of these shells and their flawless record of performance up to that point.

This is the result of extremely careful calculations checked continuously by actual tests as to the correctness of theoretical assumption, and likewise the result of careful execution of construction work. We must emphasize the necessity for the same carefulness in the design and construction of shell structures in the U.S.A. A neglect in this respect would inevitably lead to failures-detrimental to the development and progress of shell structures not only in the U.S.A. but also in Europe, damaging the success of our work and effort for many years (Tedesko 1931b).

Tedesko also expressed in a letter to Kalinka his personal worry that introduction of thin shells in the United States would be dangerous and difficult. He further explained:

Our engineers don't understand the American business standpoint that one can only have employees which bring "direct results" to the firm. I wrote you earlier that a few of our people do mostly theoretical work for which an


American firm would not pay them. For this reason, there are also no notable advances in theory coming out of U.S. firms. I know that you stand in a difficult position with relation to your "business men," but you must make clear to them that shell construction will from time to time demand expenditures which do not bring immediate results (Tedesko 1931c).

For instance, it was a must that the American engineers build a test structure in the United States in order to allay Dyckerhoff and Widmann's concerns abroad as well as the concerns of the building authorities at home. For the test structure, the two firms tried to acquire the contract for the German Pavilion at the "Century of Progress" 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Tedesko stressed that before any advertising campaign for shells be started in America, it would be necessary to build a large structure "to prove the usefulness [of thin concrete shells] from the point of view of practical American construction" (Tedesko 1931 d).

Early attempts to design and build thin concrete shells in New York led to a lively exchange between Ross, vice president of Roberts and Schaefer at the time, and A. V. Vanvleck, the president of the Society of Structural Engineers in New York City. Van Vleck had threatened to blackball the Chicago company in New York City if they did not provide New York engineers with calculations with which to check their work. Van Vleck explained his position and offered acceptable conditions.

In the first place if the designs are made in accordance with any secret formulae or theories, how can any Engineer be in a position to check them and assure the owner that they are safe and in accord with good engineering practice. In the second place you put yourselves as contractors in direct competition with practicing engineers which constitutes a situation that we have eliminated nearly 100% here in the Metropolitan area after many

years of tireless effort. '

My advice to you is that you co-operate with the engineer by giving him the benefit of such technical discoveries as you may possess; by having your trained engineers go to his office and assist him to a thorough understanding of your theoriesand formulae and how to apply them and if you deem it necessary check his designs of your construction until such time as you feel full confidence in his ability to handle it without your check (VanVleck 1932).

These conditions might appear to have jeopardized both Roberts and Schaefer's and Dyckerhoff and Widmann's hopes of working in New York while maintaining the secrecy of their process, but in reality, membrane theory calculations for a hemispherical dome were no secret at all. VanVleck's suspicion reveals what persisted until the 1940s as the air of secrecy and technological sophistication surrounding Z-D shells. Instead of emphasizing that Tedesko and his colleagues at Roberts and Schaefer held patents for Z-D construction in America, it is perhaps more truthful to say that Tedesko was the patent for Z-D construction in America.

Hayden Planetarium, New York

Heeding Vanvleck's warnings, Tedesko succeeded in arranging that the Hayden Planetarium (Fig. 3) be-the first full-scale American thin concrete shell, under the condition that "foreign. products were ruled out of consideration" (Bertin 1935), This meant that the dome would be built on more traditional falsework rather than

Fig. 3. The original 1934 Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in New York City (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

on a Zeiss network imported from Germany. Thus, the construction became more challenging, and Tedesko's contribution became more important. Without the Zeiss network in place, the Hayden was built in a fashion similar to the German domes for the Army Museum and the Church of St. Blasien at the beginning of the twentieth century. Thus, while the new planetarium apparatus itself had very clearly been imported from the Zeiss company in Germany, the structure that housed the apparatus was mostly American.

In the case of the Hayden Planetarium, the technology for thin concrete shell construction had to be developed in accord with political necessity rather than engineering experience. Tedesko served as the principal advisor to the engineers at Weiskopf and Pickworth, to whom he gave his own membrane theory, calculations as guidelines. Tedesko filled these calculations with derivations of loads and stresses, clearly making the theory available to New York engineers, while giving actual stress values only in the last couple of pages. Tedesko's calculations for vertical load reflected almost exactly those published by Emperger in 1909. Tedesko calculated maximum compressive stresses under combined loads on the order of 85 psi (6 kg/ cm-). These low stresses, together with a thickness to span ratio of 1/324, placed the Hayden Planetarium's structural efficiency somewhere between the Munich Army Museum and the Jena Planetarium.

Brook Hill Farm Dairy Exhibit, Chicago, III.

If Hayden Planetarium reenacted Dyckerhoff and Widmann's preWorld War I experiences with thin concrete shells, a small set of barrel shells in Chicago provided Tedesko with his first chance to conduct large-scale tests similar to those run by the German firm in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Failing to obtain the contract for the German Pavilion at the Chicago "Century of Progress" World's Fair in 1933, Roberts and Schaefer was awarded a contract for Brook Hill Farm's dairy exhibit, shown in Fig. 4.

One good-natured advertisement for the exhibit stressed that the Brook Hill Farm cows would "enjoy comfort and safety greater than that ever before enjoyed by any cows anywhere" (Anonymous 1933). Of course, the more serious subtext of this statement was that this new building type was economical, durable, fireproof, and able to cover large areas with a minimum of


Fig. 4. The Brook Hill Farm exhibition stalls at the 1933 "Century of Progress" World's Fair in Chicago (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

supports, Furthermore, since the Brook Hill stalls were temporary, Tedesko tested them under ultimate loads prior to their demolition after the Fair. Therefore, the stalls provided Roberts and Schaefer with the chance to publish the first load tests carried out on reinforced concrete barrel shells in the United States (ENR 1935).

In scale, the Brook Hill Farm barrels were similar to the 1925 Biebrich test shell and the 1927 Frankfurt test shell (Table 1). Tedesko's concern about possible imprecision in American construction, however, prompted him to increase the shell thickness by a factor of five from 0.6 in. (1.5 ern) at Biebrich to 3 in. (7.6 em) at Chicago. Whereas failure of the little known Biebrich test shell would have set back Dyckerhoff and Widmann only temporarily, failure of the Brook Hill Farm shells would have seriously jeopardized Tedesko's efforts to build thin shells in the United States, Specifically, a wooden lamella roof in Chicago had recently collapsed under an unbalanced snow load. This collapse had already predisposed the Chicago Building Commission against so-called thin vaulted constructions (Kalinka 1931).

Tedesko had previously noted from the tests at Frankfurt that unbalanced loads deformed a Z·D shell on the same order of magnitude as uniform loads. He had further described the ultimate load on the Frankfurt scale model of 197 psf (964 kg/rn-) and remarked on a single line in 'his notebook, "Vorzugliches Verhalten!" (Excellent Behavior!) (Tedesko 1930). Therefore, he proceeded with confidence in testing the Brook Hill Farm shells. His feeling was confirmed when the Brook Hill Farm barrel shells deflected only 112,200 of their 36 ft (11 m) length (ENR 1935).

Hershey Sports Arena, Hershey, Pa.

Tedesko designed his next significant project, the Hershey Sports Arena, to span 222 ft (68 m) with a thickness of only 3.5 in. (8.9 em) (Fig. 5). With this design, he reestablished the thinness of such shells in proportion to their scale and completed the introduction of thin concrete shells in the United States. Although the Hershey Arena has recently been discussed in detail (Saliklis and Billington 2003), it is helpful to mention the project briefly and to clarify its importance concerning the themes of this paper.

In order to provide jobs and boost morale during the Depression, Milton Hershey had decided to construct a sports arena with company labor, No outside contracts would be made for the engineering or construction, and the company's bookkeepers would

Fig. 5. The 1936 Hershey Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

record the costs of construction as a portion of the money required to manufacture chocolate bars. Tedesko persuaded the Hershey company that its workers, although inexperienced in construction, could indeed build such an arena (Tedesko 1991), At 32 years of age, he knew that he was taking a calculated risk on a project that might open the door once and for all for thin shell concrete roofs to be built in the United States. For Tedesko, Hershey was the project of a lifetime-an opportunity tha(he could never have had in Europe (Tedesko 1986).

While the inexperienced but eager workforce at Hershey eventually proved to be an asset, Tedesko was not given full control of the construction until the project was well underway. Initially, his experience as an engineer gave him little credibility as a.leader with Hershey's management.

[T]here were some Hershey plant managers who thought that my instructions were too strict; these men interfered and discouraged others from following my advice". My tests and measurements were not always taken seriously (Tedesko 1991).

For instance, Tedesko once set up a certain construction phase under the assumption that shifts would be 12 h long. The management then limited single shifts to a maximum of 8 h. At a critical moment, this left Tedesko without his best workers, At 2.30 a.m., a thunderstorm flooded the construction site, sending mudslides of unhardened concrete cascading down the sides of the structure onto the flat side roofs. For fear that this extra weight would collapse the side roofs, Tedesko had his remaining workers punch holes in the relatively new concrete roofs for drainage (Tedesko 1991).

One can imagine the scene at Hershey on the following morning as the job leaders sat, close to tears, staring at what appeared to be a ruined project. Tedesko offered to see the construction through on the condition that he be given full authority over the job-including the careful measurement of material properties and structural deflections. The new arena was then completed in 8 months in spite of opposition from managers who wanted to shut down construction over the winter. Furthermore, the new arena attracted many admiring visitors during and after its construction. One of these visitors was Lt. Commander Ben Morree1 of the U.S. Navy, who eventually became an important contact for securing many of Roberts and Schaefer's projects for the military.



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Fig. 6. Graph of creep in concrete structures recorded over a period of two years. Sent to Tedesko by Dyckerhoff and Widmann on March 4, 1938 (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive).

With so much riding on the success of the Hershey Sports Arena, the structure's initial deflections due to creep worried Tedesko, and these worries were exacerbated by stories about the 1934 collapse due to creep of Finsterwalder's Hangar at Cottbus (Tedesko 1975). Therefore, Tedesko designed the Hershey shell with substantial stiffening ribs. He also asked Dyckerhoff and Widmann to send him data on measurements of creep. They sent the graph shown in Fig. 6 and reassured Tedesko that several structures had reached their maximum deflections due to creep within 2 years. In addition to the German data represented in Fig. 6, Tedesko ordered the collection of similar data from the Hershey Arena at least through 1938.

Collapse at Cottbus

Tedesko's construction of the Hershey Arena had pushed widespanning, short barrel shells to a scale that was unprecedented in either America or Europe. Later, hangars in San Diego, California (Tedesko 1941); Rapid City, South Dakota and Limestone, Maine (Allen 1950), surpassed Hershey in scale with forms that were unique in comparison to European hangars. These large projects contrasted sharply with contemporary German thin concrete shells whose forms were overwhelmed with stiffening ribs in response to the collapse of a hangar in Cottbus (Fig. 7) in early 1934.

Later in his career, Tedesko often related the following story of the Cottbus collapse as told to him by Finsterwalder.

Finsterwalder had designed several long-span, shelltype concrete hangars for the German Air Force. A few weeks after removal of the [Cottbus] form centering it was noticed that the shell kept deflecting and that the moveable doors jammed within the guide rails of the door girder. The guides were readjusted for the doors to have clearance to move again, but after a couple of weeks the doors jammed again. Finsterwalder over the phone asked his men in the field to measure the deflection of the door girder; they reported a deflection of 20 to 25 em (8-10 in.). Finsterwalder suggested they measure again; he thought that such a deflection was impossible as the structure would buckle under such circumstances. At .that time a big crashing noise came over the phone and someone reported that the hangar had just collapsed.

Fig. 7. Interior of a scale model of the 1933 Kottbus hangar (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

The incident was hushed up because of the destruction of numerous planes of Germany's fledgling air force. Hitler ordered that Finsterwalder, the responsible engineer, be shot. An air force officer who participated in the investigation of the collapse managed to have the execution order revoked, thus saving Finsterwalder's life. This officer later became General Kesselring, the commander of the German Army during the Allied invasion of Italy.

The investigation of the collapse indicated that-it>. was "plastic flow" that had flattened the shell, creating the moments which in tum increased shell radius and deformations until the geometry was such that the structure buckled. What was then known as "plastic flow" was renamed "creep."

Nothing was published about the incident, but all kinds of programs were started, including long-term observations, and Finsterwalder's bridges were equipped with built-in devices to keep track of creep, and all existing shells similar to the Cottbus hangar received stiffening ribs (Fig. 8) (Tedesko 1990).

The Cottbus collapse demonstrated the potential consequences of pushing shell dimensions to unprecedented levels. It also raised the question of how thoroughly Dyckerhoff and Widmann experimentally tested their ideas about this new structure before con-

Fig. 8. Interior of a 1934 hangar with similar geometry to Kottbus but with stiffening ribs (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)


structing it. Nearly all of the Gelman testing conducted on earlier shells such as the Leipzig, Frankfurt, and Budapest Market halls had focused on buckling as a central concern.

The writers of this paper have found no evidence of large-scale tests on the Cottbus structure similar to those conducted in 1927 at Frankfurt. Even if they had conducted such tests, could Dyckerhoff and Widmann have ascertained the time-dependent qualities of creep that led to the disaster in Cottbus? This is a difficult question to answer, especially since Dyckerhoff and Widmann may have tested Cottbus models without publishing the results or sending them to Tedesko. In 1973, while discussing the collapse, RUsch assured that the strictest investigations of the calculations and the construction revealed that everything had been done according to accepted standards (RUsch 1973, P: 12). The Cottbus hangar's geometry was, however, radically different from the geometry of previous Zeiss-Dywidag shells. The length of the Cottbus shell was 131 ft (40 m), similar to the one at Budapest. The radius of curvature of the Cottbus shell was 82 ft (25 m), similar to the shell at Tertre. In designing Cottbus, Dyckerhoff and Widmann combined their longest spanning shell (Budapest) with their widest spanning shell (Tertre) for a new geometry. Additionally, they supported one edge of this shell on a girder, as shown in Fig. 7.

In 1933, RUsch had written with great confidence to Tedesko about this new type of shell.

For your instruction on our latest advances in hangar construction, we are sending you two drawings ... and two photographs of scale models [see Fig. 7]. This type of hangar is substantially more economical and elegant than those that we have previously designed and might also find applications [in the United States]. The door spans can be raised to [197 ft] 60 m and rnore, the appropriate depths lie between [82 ft] 25 and [131 ft] 40 m (RUsch 1933).

Finsterwalder had explained to Tedesko that the Tertre tables gave values for Cottbus that were practically the same as those values calculated by more exact methods (Finsterwalder 1935). Many years later, RUsch wrote toTedesko that the Tertre tables had been checked for the extreme cases of Tertre and Budapest, exhibiting their ability to simplify stress calculations for a wide variety of structures (Tedesko and RUsch 1948). Such focus on stress analysis may help to explain why Dyckerhoff and Widmann was comfortable building a new structural form such as the Cottbus hanger with less dependence on structural testing and monitoring than for previous structures.

More difficult to explain, however, is Finsterwalder's willingness to refer to Cottbus as a valid structure for comparing stresses in 193.5, because the likelihood is high that the hangar had already collapsed. RUsch's letter and Dyckerhoff and Widmann's records (Dyckerhoff and Widmann 1935) place the design and construction of the two Cottbus hangars in 1933. However, Dyckerhoff and Widmann's records report the construction of the smaller hangar only. Dyckerhoff and Widmann's Drawing No. 4000. EH. 19 shows this smaller hanger to have had a span of w=92 ft (28 rn), a length of 1=131 ft (40 m), a radius of curvature of R=66 ft (20 m), and a shell thickness of 3 in. (8 em). Drawing No. 4015. EH. 7, depicting the hangar that later collapsed, was checked by Finsterwalder on August 21, 1933, the same date he checked Drawing No. 4000. Dyckerhoff and Widmann's records list several hangars with stiffening ribs built in 1934. Coupled with Tedesko's anecdotal comments that the hangars had crept significantly and then collapsed several weeks after their construction

(Tedesko 1990), this information suggests that the hangar collapsed in late 1933 or early 1934.

It is likely that the first official mention of the Cottbus collapse known to Tedesko was in a 1937 German publication (Mehmel 1937, p. 20), which Tedesko received in the same year. This article referred to two hangars at Cottbus, explaining that the smaller hangar had been retrofitted with stiffening ribs after having crept substantially and that the slightly larger hangar had collapsed. The article also mentioned that deformations in the smaller hangar had implied an elastic modulus of E = 993 ksi (70,000 kg/crrr'). In his 1948 letter to Tedesko on shell buckling, RUsch noted that this same value for the elastic modulus of concrete should be used in order to estimate deformations in the shells due to creep. RUsch explained that a new radius of curvature could be calculated based on the deformed shape and then the original elastic modulus should be applied to the buckling equation for the deformed geometry (Tedesko and RUsch 1948).

While the Cottbus collapse changed the course of thin shell construction in Germany, it did little to hinder further development of thin concrete shells for military hangars in the United States. The Cottbus collapse puts into perspective both the daring of the Hershey project in 1936 and the uniquely American quality to later innovations in wide-spanning hangars. Furthermore, it demonstrates the potential danger in basing design decisions primarily on stress analysis.

Warehouses, Hangars, and Market Halls

With Hershey a success and with the onset of the war, Roberts and Schaefer received several contracts for military warehouses and hangars in the early 1940s. Few of the projects during this time matched Hershey in scale, but, collectively..:. th~e short barrel shells (so named because their arching span w was typically greater than their length L) provided the opportunity to .conduct several full-scale structural tests and to lay the foundation for later research on buckling in short barrel shells.

Visually, these shells reflected differences in the American and German approaches to economically constructing barrel shells in large quantities. Dyckerhoff and Widmann had quickly realized that the Zeiss networks were more useful to the construction of thin shells than to their structural behavior. By the late 1920s, the

Fig. 9. Typical construction of a modified Zeiss network to be used as false-work for the 1927 Frankfurt Market Hall (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)


Fig. 10. Long barrel shells covering the 1927 Frankfurt Market Hall (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

Zeiss networks had been redesigned to serve as falsework (Fig. 9), while traditional reinforcing bars were placed inside the shell following the principal tensile stress contours. Dyckerhoff and Widmann used this false work in the construction of several larue


structures such as the Frankfurt Market Hall, the Budapest Market Hall, and the Hamburg Kaischuppen. The long barrel shells for each of these structures were designed with only a maximum of two barrels set end to end. Several of these barrels would then be arrang~d next to each other in the direction of their arching span W, typically less than half their length L. In the case of the Frankfurt Market Hall, shown in Fig. 10, falsework for five barrels was used to cast all 15 barrels side by side. By the time falsework for the fifth barrel had been setup, the first barrel had hardened sufficiently for its falsework to be moved to the sixth position.

Without access to the precision Zeiss networks in the United States, construction of a large number of American barrel shells proceeded with wooden falsework that was constructed to roll lengthwise along a track, as shown in Fig. 11. Fig. 12 shows several barrels of the 1943 Budd Manufacturing Plant in Philmont, Pennsylvania, shortly after commencement of construction. The resulting structure, shown in Fig. 13, had a very different appearance than the long barrel shells in Germany. Characteristic of such American structures was their relatively short length between stiffening diaphragms in relation to their arching span.

Fig. 11. Typical American falsework, setup to roll lengthwise along a track (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

Fig. 12. Budd Manufacturing Plant in the initial stages of construction (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

These short spans did not require edge beams as deep as their German counterparts and later allowed Tedesko to develop his innovative ribless shells.

American Innovation, Wide-Span Hangars and Ribless Shells '

In February 1947, Tedesko warned his COlleagUe\ not to let the preceding successful full-scale tests and experiences with hangars and warehouses make them overconfident

We should not increase our headaches by making a structure bolder than necessary without considerable savings in cost. Zaborowski's suggestion to have the client not deal with inexperienced contractors is not applicable to public jobs. While our knowledge as to the buckling behavior of arches has increased, I am not satisfied yet with our knowledge regarding the buckling of shells and of shell cantilevers.

Our calculations are still based on a number of questionable assumptions. Wherever costs are not appreciably affected, I would choose the stiffer and more substantial structure which will not give us difficulties if construction is not in full accord with design requirements. (Tedesko 1947).

Fig. 13. Aerial photograph of the 1943 Budd Manufacturing Plant in Philmont, Pennsylvania (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)



Fig. 14. Falsework and shell for the 1948 United States Air Force hangar in Limestone, Maine (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

With the Cottbus collapse still fresh in mind, Tedesko was concerned about the behavior of wide-spanning, short barrel shells (see Fig. 14) after decentering and the effects of creep on concrete stiffness. In order to study these issues more in depth, he began corresponding with Professor Bruce Johnston of Lehigh University about the possibility of conducting structural tests. Tedesko decided to commission the Lehigh test structures as a 1/30 scale replica of the hanger in Rapid City, South Dakota. He had also pressed the Army Corps to obtain strain gauge readings from the completed structure. Three weeks before the Rapid City tests were carried out, he solicited input from his colleagues at Roberts and Schaefer, reminding them that "the results of these tests may influence the line of thought to be given to the tests at Lehigh and may complement information that we may want to get at Lehigh" (Tedesko 1948). By December 20, 1948, it had been decided that these tests would investigate the buckling of widespan, short barrel shells, and in particular the contribution of the shell to the arch's resistance against such buckling. These tests eventually confirmed the theoretical analysis performed on the Rapid City hangars (Thiirlimann and Johnston 1954).

Parallel to the laboratory tests at Lehigh, Tedesko and his colleagues developed ideas for how knowledge gained from testing could be combined with construction experience to generate innovative designs. Tedesko had learned that the stiffening ribs on smaller, multiple barrel shells slowed the pace of construction by making it more difficult to move formwork efficiently. Furthermore, these ribs caused problems with drainage and required difficult flashing details, To do away with the ribs would speed construction but would also depart from Dischinger's original mathematical assumptions. With one testing program for widespanning barrel shells already underway, Roberts and Schaefer decided to also explore the behavior of ribless shells. To this end, Tedesko planned another testing program at Harvey, Illinois.

The 1950 tests at Harvey (Fig. 15) consciously imitated Dischinger's tests 19 years earlier in Wiesbaden-Biebrich (Fig. 2). Both Dyckerhoff and Widmann and Roberts and Schaefer designed their experiments to test the feasibility of their most innovative idea. The deflections of both structures were well under what was allowable, and they both behaved elastically without cracking under uniform loads, unbalanced loads, and point loads. Tedesko reported deflections of 0.14 in. (3.6 mm) under 102 psf (500 kg/m2) loads at Harvey, which hada ratio of 1/1,530 to the barrels' 18 ft (5.5 m) length (Tedesko 1961), After 8 years of rigorous analysis, structural testing, and construction, Dischinger had staged his 1931 tests as a performance as well as an experi-

Fig. 15. Engineers and construction workers standing atop the 1950 ribless test shell in Harvey, Illinois (Courtesy of Princeton Tedesko Archive)

merit. Tedesko must have felt a certain sense of destiny (and humor) leading to the corresponding photograph of the Harvey test shell (Fig. 15). He did not hesitate to enlist Dischinger himself in the project as a consultant on the theory of ribless shells. It was the results of these experiments, in conjunction with Dischinger's theory, that Tedesko discussed in his doctoral dissertation submitted some years later at his alma mater in Vienna. This was the capstone of Tedesko's project to bringxGerman thin concrete shells to the United States. Responding crea'tively to the challenge of adapting German construction to American practice, he developed structural innovations that were uniquely American.


The United States lays claim to two major innovations in the design and construction of thin shell concrete roof structures. They are the wide-spanning, short barrel shell, and the ribless shell. These innovations were led by one structural engineer with energy, enthusiasm, and substantial technical competence. In a world that risks misunderstanding engineering innovation as the result of large, expensive teams of engineers and managers, it is crucial to understand how individuals can make a significant difference. The story of Anton 'Iedesko's efforts to bring thin shell concrete roof technology from Germany to America and then to develop this technology further demonstrates the power of individuals to produce innovations in structural engineering.

Essential to the transfer of ideas on thin shell concrete roofs from Germany to the United States, was the expertise that Tedesko brought with him from Germany and the backing of his parent company, Dyckerhoff and Widmann. Tedesko had learned from his German mentors not only how to approach the design and construction of thin concrete shells, but also how to develop new, reliable shell forms. Critical to Tedesko's own development of new forms was his talent for and commitment to communication with clients and contractors. Such communication was particularly important because the reinforced concrete structures were often built using local materials and local labor. Later in his career, Tedesko partly attributed the eventual demise of thin shell construction in the United States to a breakdown in communication between designers, owners, and contractors (Tedesko 1970, p.5).

Tedesko's introduction of thin shell concrete roofs in the United States is outlined in the story of three structures: a hemispherical dome (Hayden Planetarium), a small set of long barrels (Brook Hill Farm Dairy exhibit), and a large wide-spanning, short barrel roof (Hershey Sports Arena). These three structures were built within 3 years of each other and reflected conceptually the German development of Z-D shells in the 1920s. The Hayden Planetarium project forced Tedesko to abandon the application of Zeiss networks and to work with American engineers and contractors who were openly resistant to foreign technology. The Brook Hill Farm exhibit provided him with the opportunity to conduct public load tests that proved the safety of such shells under extreme conditions. The Hershey arena provided him with the opportunity of a lifetime to design and construct a structure that was unprecedented in scale not only in the United States but also in Europe. These three experiences reflected the peculiarly American quality of Tedesko's experience and paved the way for future structures that would be known as Z-D shells but that would be American both in structure and in form.

With the viability of thin shell concrete roofs established in the United States by the late 1930s, Tedesko persisted in working closely with contractors and conducting structural tests. He encouraged his American company to monitor as many of their structures as possible. Sobered by the collapse of a German hangar at Cottbus, Tedesko proceeded cautiously toward his innovative ribless shells and wide-spanning, short barrel shells. In order to develop the confidence necessary to build these structures, Tedekso relied more on simple calculations, structural testing, and extensive communication with contractors than on complicated analytical procedures.


Funding for this work was supplied by the National Science Foundation Award No. 0095010 to Princeton University. The writers are indebted to Dr. Anton Tedesko and his widow, Sally Tedesko, for giving his personal and professional files to Princeton University in order to create the Princeton Tedesko Archive. The writers are also indebted to Professor Edmond P. Salildis for studies of the Hershey Arena and to William Cooch, former student at Princeton University, for helping to organize the Princeton Tedesko Archive.


The following symbols are used in this paper: a = shell radius;

D diameter in plan of a dome;

d depth of a shell; i.e., a shell's rise above its springing


h shell thickness;

L length of a barrel shell; and

w width of a barrel shell, i.e., the span of a barrel shell's arch.


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Editor's Note Sashi K Kunnath


1639 Anton Tedesko and the Introduction of Thin Shell Concrete Roofs in the

United States '

Eric M. Hines and David P. Billington

Technical Papers

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1659 Measures of Structural Redundancy in Reinforced Concrete Buildings. II:

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'1667 Effects of Site Classes on Damping Reduction Factors Yu- Yuan Lin and Kuo-Chung Chang

1676 Applicability of Seismic Protective Systems to Structures with VibrationSensitive Equipment

J S. Hwang, Y. N. Huang, Y. H. Hung, and J. C. Huang

1685 Hurricane Damage Prediction Model for Residential Structures

Jean-Paul Pinelli, Emil Simiu, Kurt Gurley, Chelakara Subramanian, Liang Zhang, Anne Cope, Jemes J. Filliben, and Shahid Hamid

1692 Shear Strength Model for Lightly Reinforced Concrete Columns Halil Sezen and Jack P. Moehle

1704 Cost-Reliability Interaction in Life-Cycle Cost Optimization of Deteriorating Structures

Jung S. Kong and Dan M. Frangopol

1713 Behavior and Modeling of Fiber Reinforced Polymer-Confined Concrete J. G. Teng and L. Lam

'1724 Cellular Automata Approach to Durability Analysis of Concrete Structures in Aggressive Environments

Fabio Biondinl, Franco Bontempi, Dan M. Frangopol, and Pier Giorgio Malerba

contents continue on back cover