No. 528 . 17 August 2011 

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Tim Eliassen and Navtec consulted on the structural glazing system for the Pyramide du Louvre (1989) by I.M. Pei — a defining project in the adaptation of yacht rigging technology to achieve grand architectural transparency in the high-tech Modern style. Photo: Johnson Architectural Images/ Artifice Images

Tim Eliassen - Structural Glazing Pioneer

by Mic Patterson

Implementers and enablers are found at the leading edge of any innovative and emergent technology such as structural glass facade (SGF) technology. Prominent among them is Tim Eliassen, a founder of TriPyramid Structures, a company specializing in the design and fabrication of rod and cable rigging systems and their application in SGFs.

Technology transfer is a well-established pathway for innovation. Tim Eliassen blazed a trail in bringing the technology of high-performance sailboat rigging to the architectural market. Since that time, there have been few milestone SGF applications with which he has not been involved.

Eliassen's undergraduate study was in aeronautical engineering, shifting to nuclear reactor engineering with his graduate work. But his passion was for sailboats. Recognizing an opportunity for improving the design of rigging systems, Eliassen cofounded Navtec and was immediately immersed in the world of large racing yachts, America's Cup boats, and sailing vessels whose sole purpose was complete circumnavigation of the globe in the shortest possible time.

In the 1980s, Eliassen met Martin Francis, an architect and the "F" in RFR, the architecture and engineering firm he founded with Peter Rice and Ian Ritchie. Francis also happened to be a designer and builder of large sailing yachts.

Their meeting was the beginning of an ongoing dialogue about the possibility of applying the rigging technology of high-performance sailing yachts to buildings. During the course of this dialogue and developing friendship, Francis took Eliassen to see the glass Serres at Parc de la Villette in Paris, the seminal work designed by Peter Rice and RFR in 1983.

Then in 1987, Eliassen received a call from Francis telling him that there was a project in France that needed his involvement: the Louvre Pyramid by I.M. Pei.   >>>

This article is excerpted from Structural Glass Facades and Enclosures by Mic Patterson, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.



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