New Book on Thin Shell Modernism and Structural Engineer Jack Christiansen


Eugenia Woo


Docomomo US/WEWA


chapter, newsletter august 2019, WEWA
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Sculpture on a Grand Scale: Jack Christiansen's Thin Shell Modernism

A new book on the thin shell concrete designs of innovative structural engineer Jack Christiansen (1927 - 2017) has just been published by the University of Washington (UW) Press. Christiansen made significant contributions to modernist architecture in the Pacific Northwest. As described in the UW Press catalogue, Christiansen “designed more than a hundred projects in the region: public schools and gymnasiums, sculptural church spaces, many of the Seattle Center’s 1962 World’s Fair buildings, and the Museum of Flight’s vast glass roof all reflect his expressive ideas. Inspired by Northwest topography and drawn to the region’s mountains and profound natural landscapes, Christiansen employed hyperbolic paraboloid forms, barrel-vault structures, and efficient modular construction to echo and complement the forms he loved in nature. Notably, he became an enthusiastic proponent of using thin shell concrete—the Kingdome being the most prominent example—to create inexpensive, utilitarian space on a large scale.” 

"Sculpture on a Grand Scale: Jack Christiansen's Thin Shell Modernism" is the work of Tyler Sprague, assistant professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington. Tyler serves on the board of the Construction History Society of America and is the Board President of Docomomo US/WEWA. An exhibition of Christiansen’s work, co-sponsored by Docomomo US/WEWA, will be on view in Gould Gallery at the University of Washington this fall. Tyler will also be giving a presentation on Christiansen’s work and thin shell modernism for Docomomo US/WEWA in late 2019.   

book cover