Torroja (1899-1961) was one of the most notable structural engineers of the twentieth century. His built work was less prolific than, say, Félix Candela or Heinz Isler, and certainly less spectacular than the likes of Pier Luigi Nervi or Eladio Dieste. In part, his renown is due to his wide-ranging commitment to structural engineering as a profession: as well as being a designer, he ran various companies and research laboratories, and he was the founding president of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures, who still award the Torroja Medal in his honour.
One reason he remains widely recognised was that he was one of very few engineers to articulate his design philosophy in writing. While The Philosophy of Structures is sometimes heavy going, The Structures of Eduardo Torroja is a simple pleasure, mainly comprising photographs and sketches, with the designer's explanations of his work. Both, incidentally, are out-of-print, but relatively easy to locate secondhand.
Torroja has some interesting things to say about design, many of which are relevant to bridges if aimed at other targets. His basic point of view is summarised in the introduction to Philosophy:
"Structural design is concerned with much more than science and techniques: it is also very much concerned with art, common sense, sentiment, aptitude, and enjoyment of the task of creating opportune outlines to which scientific calculations will add finishing touches, substantiating that the structure is sound and strong in accordance with the requirements".Elsewhere in the same book, Torroja makes clear his view on how engineers should balance art and technology:
"Every art demands a technique ... In our case, the basic technique is essentially static balance and strength, against which so many objections are leveled on the count that technicians lack adequate culture and aesthetic feeling. Conversely, how much nonsense germinates in the mind of the artist who has not the requisite technical training and understanding!"Over the next few posts, I'll cover several of Torroja's bridge designs, in chronological order. While doing so, it's worth noting that with one exception, they don't really rank amongst his finest designs, such as the Zarzuela Hippodrome (pictured right, courtesy of Paco Garate on flickr), Algeciras Market Hall, and Frontón Recoletos. I'd encourage interested readers to look at those if not familiar with Torroja's work.
I won't cover all his bridges: there were several built in Morocco late in his life for which I haven't been able to locate sufficient information, and there are a couple of unbuilt designs in The Structures which I'll also leave alone for now.
- Torroja at Structurae
- Instituto de Ciencias de la Construcción Eduardo Torroja
- Eduardo Torroja - Ingeniero (by Navarro Vera & Fernández Ordóñez)
- Eduardo Torroja - from the philosophy of structures to the art and science of bulding (ed. Levi, Chiorino & Cestari)