World Architecture is a art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.
1. Abomey Royal Palaces
The Royal Palaces of Abomey in the West African Republic of Benin formerly the Kingdom of
Dahomey, on the Gulf of Guinea, are a substantial reminder of a vanished kingdom. From 1625 to
1900 Abomey was ruled by a succession of twelve kings. With the exception of Akaba, who created
a separate enclosure, each built a lavish cob-wall palace with a high, wide-eaved thatched roof in the
190-acre 44-hectare royal grounds, surrounded by a wall about 20 feet 6 meters high. There are
fourteen palaces in all, standing in a series of defensible courtyards joined by what were once closely
guarded passages. Over centuries, the complexreally aa city within a citywas filled with
nearly 200 square or rectangular single-story houses, circular religious buildings, and auxiliary
structures, all made of unbaked earth and decorated with colorful bas-reliefs, murals, and sculpture
it was a major and quite unexpected feat of contextual architecture in a preliterate society.
According to tradition, in the twelfth or thirteenth century a.d., Adja people migrated from near the
Mono River in what is now Togo and founded a village that became the capital of Great Ardra, a
kingdom that reached the zenith of its power about 400 years later. Around 1625 a dispute over
which of three brothers should be king resulted in one, Kokpon, retaining Great Ardra. Another, Te-
Agdanlin, founded Little Ardra known to the Portuguese as Porto-Novo. The third, Do-Aklin,
established his capital at Abomey and built a powerful centralized kingdom with a permanent army
and a complex bureaucracy. Intermarriage with the local people gradually formed the largest of
modern Benins ethnic groups, the Fon, or Dahomey, who occupy the southern coastal region.
Abomey is their principal town.
The irresistible Fon armiesthey included female warriorscarried out slave raids on their
neighbors, setting up a trade with Europeans. By 1700 about 20,000 slaves were sold each year, and
the trade became the kingdoms main source of wealth. Despite British efforts to stamp it out, it
persisted, and Dahomey continued to expand northward well into the nineteenth century. King
Agadja 1708–1732 subjugated much of the south, provoking the neighboring Yoruba kingdom to a
war, during which Abomey was captured. The Fon were under Yoruba domination for eighty years
from 1738. In 1863, in a bid to balance Fon power, Little Ardra the only southern town not annexed
by Agadja accepted a French protectorate. France, fearing other European imperialists, tried to
secure its hold on the Dahomey coast. King Behanzin 1889–1893 resisted, but France established a
protectorate over Abomey, exiled him, and made his brother, Agoli-Agbo, puppet king under a
colonial government. By 1904 the French had seized the rest of present-day Benin, absorbing it into French West Africa.
Tradition has it that the first palace was built for King Dakodonou in 1645 and that his successors
followed with structures of the same materials and similar designin architectural jargon, each
palace was contextual. King Agadja was the first to incorporate 40-inch-square 1-meter panels of
brightly painted bas-relief in niches in his palace facade. After that they proliferated as an integral decorative device for example, King Gleles 1858–1889 palace had fifty-six of them. As esthetically delightful as they were, the main purpose of the panels was not pleasure but propaganda.
An important record of the preliterate Fon society, many documented key events in its rise to
supremacy, rehearsing in images the probably exaggerated deeds of the kings. Just as history books
might do in another society, they held for posterity the Fons cultural heritage, customs, mythology,
When French forces advanced on Abomey in 1892, King Behanzin commanded that the royal
palaces were to be burned rather than fall into their hands. Under Agoli-Agbo I, the buildings were
restored. Although contemporary documents describe the compound as avast camp of ruins, the
exact extent of both the damage and the reconstruction is unclear. The palace of King Glele known
as the Hall of the Jewels was among the buildings to survive. Although there are doubts about the
age of the existing bas-reliefs, which may be reproductions, those from that palace are probably
original and the oldest of the remaining works. In 1911 the French made an ill-informed attempt at
architectural restoration, particularly in the palaces of Guezo and Glele. Further inappropriate work
in the early 1980s included replacing some of the thatched roofs with low-pitched corrugated steel.
Denied the protection of the traditional wide eaves, the earthen bas-reliefs were badly damaged.
The palaces seem to have been under continual threat. After damage from torrential rain in April
1977, the Benin government sought UNESCOs advice on conserving and restoring them. In 1984
the complex was inscribed on the World Heritage List and simultaneously on the List of the World
Heritage in Danger because of the effects of a tornado. The royal compound, the Guezo Portico,
King Glele s tomb, and the Hall of the Jewels were badly damaged. Several conservation programs
have been initiated subsequently. In 1988 fifty of the fragile reliefs from the latter building, battered
by weather and insect attack, were removed before reconstruction was initiated. After removal, they
were remounted as individual panels in stabilized earth casings, and between 1993 and 1997 an
international team of experts from the Benin government and the Getty Conservation Institute
worked on their conservation. The Italian government has financed other projects.
Today the glory of the royal city of Abomey has passed. Most of the palaces are gone only those of
Guezo 1818–1858 and Glele tenuously stand. Their size gives a glimpse of their splendid past:
together they cover 10 acres 4 hectares and comprise 18 buildings. They were converted into a
historical museum in 1944. Apart from them, the enclosure of the Royal Palaces is abandoned. Many
buildings, including the Queen Mothers palace, the royal tombs, and the so-called priestesses house
remain in imminent danger of collapse.
The 20-mile-long 32-kilometer Afsluitdijk literally,closing-off dike, constructed from 1927 to
1932 between Wieringen now Den Oever and the west coast of Friesland, enabled the resourceful
Dutch to turn the saltwater Zuider Zee South Sea into the freshwater IJsselmeer and eventually to
create an entire new province, Flevoland. Like their successful responses to similar challenges before
and since, it was an audacious and farsighted feat of planning, hydraulic engineering, and reclamation.
Throughout their history, the Netherlanders have fought a battle against the water. Much of their tiny
country is well below average sea level, in places up to 22 feet 7 meters. The threat of inundation
comes not only from the sea but also from the great river systems whose deltas dominate the
geography of Holland. Over centuries, literally thousands of miles of dikes and levees have been
built to win agricultural land back from the water, and having gained it, to protect it. From the
seventeenth century Amsterdam merchants invested their profits in building the North Holland
poldersBeemstermeer, the Purmer, the Wormer, the Wijde Wormer, and the Schermerreclaimed
through the ingenious use of the ubiquitous windmill.
In 1250 the 79-mile-long 126-kilometer Omringdijk was built along Frieslands west coast to
protect the land from the sea, and as early as 1667 the hydraulic engineer Hendric Stevin bravely
proposed to close off the North Sea and reclaim the land under the Z uider Z ee. His scheme was then
technologically impossible. The idea was revived in 1891 by the civil engineer and statesman
Cornelis Lely. Based on research undertaken over five years, his plan was straightforward: a closing
dike across the neck of the Z uider Z ee would create a freshwater lake fed by the River IJssel and
allow the reclamation of 555,000 acres 225,000 hectares of polder landin the event, 407,000
acres 165,000 hectares were won. Despite Lelys assurances about the feasibility of the plan, his parliamentary colleagues were
unenthusiastic. But attitudes changed after the region around the Z uider Z ee was disastrously flooded
in 1916 moreover, World War I in which Holland remained neutral convinced the Dutch
government that internal transportation links needed to be improved. The Z uiderzee Act was passed
The Z uiderzeeproject commenced in 1920 with the construction of the Amsteldiepdijk, also known
as the Short Afsluitdijk, between V an Ewijcksluis, North Holland, and the westernmost point of the
island of Wieringen. There were some initial foundation problems and a financial calamity for the
contractor, but the dike was completed in 1926. There followed the construction of the small test
polder Andijk 1927 and the Wieringermeer 1927–1930.
The key element in the daring plan was the construction of the Afsluitdijk across the Waddenzee, an
arm of the North Sea. The project was undertaken by a consortium of Hollands largest dredging
firms, known as N. V . Maatschappij tot Uitvoering van de Z uiderzeewerken. All the work, involving
moving millions of tons of earth and rock, was carried out manually by armies of laborers working
from each end of the structure. Built during the Great Depression, the Afsluitdijk was a welcome
source of employment. It was completed on 28 May 1932. It was intended later to build a railroad
over the broad dike, but as the volume of road traffic increased in Holland, priority was given to a
four-lane motorway. The railroad was never built, although adequate space remains for it.
The closure of the Afsluitdijk enabled the eventual reclamation of three huge tracts of land formerly
under the sea: the Noordoostpolder 1927–1942, East Flevoland 1950–1957, and South Flevoland
1959–1968. They were later combined to become a new province, Flevoland, with a total area of
over 500 square miles 1,400 square kilometers. Its rich agricultural land supports two cities,
Lelystad and Almere, although the latter is more properly a dormitory for Amsterdam. Flevoland is
on average 16 feet 5 meters below sea level. The great freshwater body south of the Afsluitdijk was
renamed IJsselmeer. Its balance, carefully controlled through the use of sluices and pumps, is
determined by inflow and outflow rates, rainfall and evaporation, and storage level changes. With a surface of nearly 500 square miles 131,000 hectares, it is the largest inland lake in the Netherlands.
A proposal to reclaim a fifth polder, the 230-square-mile 60,300-hectare Markerwaard, behind a
66-mile-long 106-kilometer dike between Enkhuizen and Lelystad was not pursued, mainly
because of ecological concerns.
In February 1998 the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Waterways, and Communication published the
Waterkader report, setting out national water-management policies until 2006. Aiming to keep the
Netherlands safe from flooding, it presents a case for reserving temporary water-storage areas
controlled floodingagainst times of high river discharge or rainfall. The government,
recognizing that raising the dikes and increasing pumping capacity cannot continue forever, has
adopted the mottoGive water more space. The document Long-Range Plan Infrastructure and
Transport of October 1998 promised to invest 26 billion guilders approximately U.S.$13 billion in
the nations infrastructure before 2006. Part of the money is earmarked for waterways, including
links between Amsterdam and Friesland across the IJsselmeer.
3. Airplane hangars
The Italian engineer and architect Pier Luigi Nervi 1891–1979 was among the most innovative
builders of the twentieth century and a pioneer in the application of reinforced concrete. In 1932 he produced some unrealized designs for circular aircraft hangars in steel and reinforced concrete that heralded the remarkable hangars he built for the Italian Air Force at Orvieto. None have survived but they are well documented: more than enough to demonstrate that they were a tour de force, both as engineering and architecture.
Nervi had graduated from the University of Bologna in 1913. Following World War I service in the Italian Engineers Corps he established an engineering practice in Florence and Bologna before moving to Rome, where he formed a partnership with one Nebbiosi. Nervis first major work, the 30,000-seat Giovanni Berta Stadium at Florence 1930–1932, was internationally acclaimed for its graceful, daring cantilevered concrete roof and stairs. The revolutionary hangars followed soon after.
There were three types, all with parabolic arches and elegant vaulted roofs that paradoxically conveyed a sense of both strength and lightness. The first type, of which two were built at Orvieto in 1935, had a reinforced concrete roof made up of a lattice of diagonal bow beams, 6 inches 15 centimeters thick and 3.7 feet 1.1 meters deep, intersecting at about 17-foot 5-meter centers. They supported a deck of reinforced, hollow terra-cotta blocks covered with corrugated asbestos-cement. The single-span roof measured 133 by 333 feet 40 by 100 meters, and its weight was carried to the ground through concrete equivalents of medieval flying buttresses. The 30-foot-high 9-meter doors that accounted for half of one of the long sides of the hangar were carried on a continuous reinforced concrete frame.
In the other types Nervis fondness for structural economy led to the prefabrication of parts, saving time and money. Type two was his first experiment with parallel bow trusses assembled from open-web load-bearing elements, spanning the 150-foot 45-meter width of the hangar. A reinforced-concrete roof covering provided stiffening. The third type combined the diagonal configuration of the first and the prefabrication techniques of the second. He built examples of it six times between 1939 and 1941 for air bases at Orvieto, Orbetello, and Torre del Lago. The massive roofs, covered with corrugated asbestos cement on a prefabricated concrete deck, were supported on only six sloping columnsat each corner and the midpoints of the long sidesthat carried the weight and thrust beyond the perimeter of the hangars. All the components were cast on-site in simple wooden forms.
The Germans bombed these amazing structures as they retreated from Italy toward the end of World War II. Nervi was delighted to learn that, even in the face of such a tragedy, the prefabricated joints had held together despite the destruction of his hangars. He later included them amongst his mostinteresting works, observing that their innovative forms would have been impossible to achieve by the conventional concrete technology of the day. In the early 1940s Nervi extended his experiments to ferrocimentoa very thin membrane of dense concrete reinforced with a steel gridwhich be used to build a number of boats.
He next combined that material with the prefabrication techniques he had developed for the hangars. For Salone B at the Turin Exhibition of 1949–1950, he designed a 309-by-240-foot 93-by-72-meter vaulted rectangular hall with a 132-foot-diameter 40-meter semicircular apse at one end. The main hall roof and the hemidome over the apse consisted of corrugated, precast ferro-cimento units less than 2 inches 5 centimeters thick, supported on in situ buttresses, creating one of the most wonderful interior spaces of the twentieth century.
Nervis designs were too complex to be calculated by orthodox mathematical analysis, and he developed a design methodology that used polarized light to identify the stress patterns in transparent acrylic models. A few unbuilt projects were followed by three structures for the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. He built the Palazzo dello Sport 1959, with Marcello Piacentini, the Flaminio Stadium 1959, with Antonio Nervi, and the Palazzetto dello Sport 1957, with Annibale Vitellozzi. The last is a gem of a building whose rational structure is so transparently expressed that the observer can almost see the loads being shepherded to the ground in a way redolent of late English Gothic fan vaulting.
4. Airship hangars
The French dominated the early history of human flight. In September 1783 the Montgolfier brothers launched a hot-air balloon carrying farm animals to show that it was safe to travel in the sky, and a
few weeks later Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis dArlandes took to the air for a 5.5-mile 9kilometer trip over Paris. In 1852 another Frenchman, the engineer Henri Giffard, built the first
successful airshipa steam-powered, 143-foot-long 44-meter, cigar-shaped affair that flew at
about 6 mph 10 kph. About thirty years later Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs constructed an
electrically powered airship that was maneuverable even in light winds. By 1914 the French military
had built a fleet of semirigid airships, but they proved ineffective as weapons in the Great War. On
the other hand, nonrigid airships were widely used for aerial observation, coastal patrol, and
submarine spotting. Their advent generated a different type of very large building: the airship
hangar. The first zeppelin shed at Friedrichshafen, Germany 1908–1909, had been 603.5 feet long,
151 wide, and 66 high 184 by 46 by 20 meters. Like most others built Europe, it was a steel-lattice
structure with a light cladding. Much more inventive and spectacular were the parabolic reinforced
concrete hangars built in from 1922 to 1923 on a small military airfield among farmlands at Orly,
near Paris. They were a major achievement of engineering and architecture.
The French engineer-architect Marie EugM ne Leon Freyssinet 1879–1962 studied at the N cole
Polytechnique and the N cole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees in Paris. After serving in the army in
World War I he became director of the Societe des Enterprises Limousin and later established his
own practice. A great innovator, he worked mainly with reinforced concrete, building several
bridges. By 1928 he was to patent a new technique, prestressing, that eliminated tension cracking in
reinforced concrete and solved many of the problems encountered with curved shapes. Simply, steel
reinforcing cables were stretched and the concrete poured around them when it set the cables were
released and because it was in compression the structural member acquired an upward deflection.
When it was loaded in situ the resulting downward deflection brought it back to the flat position
while remaining in compression.
At Orly, Freyssinet was presented with a brief that called for two sheds that could each contain a
sphere with a radius of 82 feet 25 meters, to be built at reasonable cost. He responded by designing
prestressed reinforced concrete buildings consisting of a series of parallel tapering parabolic arches
that formed vaults about 985 feet long, 300 wide, and 195 high 300 by 90 by 60 meters. The
internal span was about 266 feet 80 meters, and each arch was assembled from 25-foot-wide 7.5meter stacked, profiled sections only 3.5 inches 9 centimeters thick those at the base of the arch
were 18 feet 5.4 meters deep and those at the crown 11 feet 3.4 meters. Placed side by side, they
formed a very stiff corrugated enclosure. Starting at a height of 65 feet 20 meters, reinforced
yellow glass windows were cast in the outer flanges of the arches.
Freyssinet specified an easily compactable concrete to ensure that the hangars would be waterproof.
It was reinforced with steel bars and poured into reusable pine formwork that was itself stressed with
tension rods to create prestressed concrete. The concrete was also designed to flow into every corner
of the complicated molds, and it was fast-setting so that formwork could be quickly stripped and
reused. The structure was temporarily supported on timber centering, and a network of cables held
the formwork in tension until the concrete developed its full strength. In other structures lateral wind
loading could be resisted by cross bracing, but because clear spans were imperative, Freyssinet
provided the necessary stiffening byfolding the concrete on the component arches. The selfweight
of the massive structure was accommodated by increasing the cross-sectional area of the arches as
they approached the ground, where the foundations consisted of deep horizontal concrete pads laid with an inward slope toward the center of the hangars. Tragically, in 1944, U.S. aircraft
bombed these revolutionary and beautiful structures.
5. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
The graceful Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, linking Kobe City and Awajishima Island across the deep
straits at the entrance to Osaka Bay, was opened to traffic on 5 April 1998. Exploiting state-of-the-art
technology, it formed the longest part of the bridge route between Kobe and Naruto in the
Tokushima Prefecture, completing the expressway that connects the islands of Honshu and Shikoku.
With a main span of 1.25 miles 1.99 kilometers and a total length of nearly 2.5 miles 3.91
kilometers, it was then the longest suspension bridge ever built.
With the growing demand for faster land travel, more convenient links over water obstacles become
necessary. If long-spansay, over 1,100 yards 1,000 metersbridges are to be politically,
economically, and structurally viable, design must be optimized. Because a bridges selfweight
increases in direct proportion to its span, the structure must be as light as possible while achieving
minimum deformation and maximum stiffness under combined dead, wind, and traffic loads. A
cable-supported suspension bridge is an ideal way to achieve that.
Alternative designs were developed for the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, considering a range of main span
lengths. The most economical length was between 6,500 and 6,830 feet 1,950 and 2,050 meters
the final choice of 6,633 feet 1,990 meters was constrained by geological and topographical factors.
The length of the side spans was fixed at 3,200 feet 960 meters, enabling the cable anchorages to
be located near the original shorelines. The clients insisted that, because of its immense span, the
form of bridge had to assure the public that it would withstand all kinds of loads, including typhoons
and earthquakes. Also, it had to express the essential beauty of the Seto-Inland Sea region and evoke
a bright future for the Hyogo Prefecture. The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge would be painted green-gray
because it was redolent of the forests of Japan.
Construction began in May 1988. The reinforced concrete anchorages for the cables on the
respective shores are of different sizes, because of different soil conditions. As an indication, the one
at the Kobe end has a diameter of 283 feet 85 meters and is 203 feet 61 meters deep. It is the
largest bridge foundation in the world.
Huge cylindrical steel chambers caissons form the foundation of the main towers. Fabricated off-
site, they are 217 feet 65 meters highmore than a 30-story buildingand 267 feet 80 meters in
diameter each weighs 15,000 tons 15,240 tonnes. To provide a level base, an area of seabed about
as big as a baseball field was excavated under each of them. They were floated into position, and
their exterior compartments were flooded to carefully sink them in 200 feet 60 meters of water.
This was achieved to within a 1-inch 2.54-centimeter tolerance. Each was then filled with 350,000
cubic yards 270,000 cubic meters of submarine concrete. The foundations of the bridge were
seismically designed to withstand an earthquake of Richter magnitude 8.5, with an epicenter 95
miles 150 kilometers away. On 17 January 1995 the Great Hanshin Earthquake magnitude 7.2
devastated nearby Kobe its epicenter was just 2.5 miles 4 kilometers from the unfinished bridge. A careful postquake investigation showed that, although the quake had lengthened the bridge by about
3.25 feet 1 meter, neither the foundations nor the anchorages were damaged. As the builders
boasted, it wasa testament to the projects advanced design and construction techniques.
The towers rise to 990 feet 297 meters above the waters of the bay for comparison, those on the
Golden Gate Bridge are 750 feet O 230 metersP high. They have steel shafts, each assembled in thirty
tiers, generally made up of three prefabricated blocks that were hoisted into place and fixed with
high-tensile bolts. The shafts are cruciform in cross section, designed to resist oscillation induced by the wind. The main cables, fixed in the massive anchorages
and passing through the tops of towers, were spun from 290 strands of galvanized steel wirea
newly developed technologyeach containing 127 filaments about 0.2 inch 5 millimeters in
diameter. Their high strength does away with the need for double cables, and because they achieve a
sag:span ratio of 1:10, the height of the main towers could be reduced. To prevent corrosion of the
cables in the salt atmosphere, dehumidified air flows through a hollow inside them, removing
moisture. The towers and the suspended structure are all finished with high-performance
anticorrosive coatings to suit the demanding marine environment.
From the main cables, polyethylene-encased, parallel-wire-strand suspension cables support the
truss-stiffened girder that carries a six-lane highway with a traffic speed of 60 mph 100 kph. The
preassembled truss members were hoisted to the deck level at the main towers, carried to their
location by a travel crane, and connected then the suspension cables were attached. This
construction technique was chosen because it did not disrupt activity on the water, where 1,400 ships
daily pass through the straits.
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