Pioneers of modern construction. Building with iron in 18th century Russia

An iron roof structure of a Marble Palace in Saint-Petersburg (1770s). Photo: Aleksandra Kosykh 2017.

Iron, as a construction material, has been known by humanity for centuries. Application of cast and wrought iron elements in the capacity of reinforcement, cramps, and single tiles dates back to the ancient times. However, iron was hardly used for production of load bearing components until the 18th century. In Russia, that period was marked by the blossoming of metallurgy, and those produced metals were lavishly used in architecture and construction. Many pieces of literature reference outstanding iron structures built in Russia at that time that still exist nowadays. However, these sources focus on decorative aspects, and neglect the structural specifics. In other words, the nascence of building with iron in 18th century Russia is almost entirely unknown in the history of construction.

The aim of the intended research is to trace the roots of modern steel construction and deeply investigate the first load bearing iron structures built in Russia during the 18th century. Designed at a time of close intercultural collaboration, these structures are of great technological, historical, and cultural significance. They are indicative of rare construction techniques, early design rules, and iron manufacturing processes. As predecessors of more complex and celebrated iron constructions built in the 19th century, these systems are an important link in the development of metal works and engineering science. For this reason, the foundations of building with iron in 18th century Russia will be uncovered, investigated, and documented.

Bearbeiterin: Aleksandra Kosykh