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.
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This article is excerpted from Structural Glass Facades and Enclosures by Mic Patterson, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.
A great structural glass facade is installed at the historic Strasbourg Railway Station in Strasbourg, France. The curved, 492-foot- (150-meter-) long enclosure is built from panes of cold-formed glass.
Photo: © M. Denancé/ RFR
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The new glass enclosure, seen here early in the construction process, has a primary structural system comprising a row of tubular steel columns that stand adjacent to the original building, and a series of cable-braced, prestressed transverse arches that spring from the ground at one end and are supported by the columns at the other, cantilevering slightly over the roof of the existing building.
Photo: © Seele GmbH
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