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Seventh Annual Conference of the Construction History Society

Online Conference 

Saturday 4 April 2020

Those who registered for the conference and everyone who is a member of the CHS will be sent a links by email on Friday 4 to register for each of the online sessions. You need to register separately for each session. Registration is free and on registration you will receive the electronic invitation to attend. The conference is being run as a Zoom Webinar. You will need to download the Zoom app on your device but you do not need to pat to use zoom to join. Membership is free. All those presenting papers will be sent full instructions. 


10am Online Session 1: Tradition and Innovation


Maryia Rusak 

PhD candidate, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway 

 Norwegian Systems Architecture: Timber Prefabrication of Moelven Brug

 Abstract: Paper looks at the 19th century Norwegian joinery firm, Moelven Brug and how it transformed itself into a major producer of prefabricated timber homes in 1970s in Norway.


Paula Fuentes 

Department of Architectural Engineering, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium;

Rosa Ana Guerra-Pestonit

Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain 

 The Vaults of Sint-Theresia’s church in Dilbeek (Belgium): Tradition and Innovation in Tile Vaults in the 20th Century

 Abstract: Paper looks at the transfer of technology of thin tile vaults and how they were used in the vaulting of St Theresia’s church in Dilbeck in Belgium in the 1930s


12 (midday) Online Session 2: Eighteenth century


James W.P. Campbell

Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, UK 

 The Significance of John Theophilus Desaguliers’s Course of Experimental Philosophy to the History of Hydraulics and what it reveals about the First Pump-driven Fountains

 Abstract: This explores the work of John Theophilus Desaguliers, an 198th century British writer whose publications give the very first description of pumped fountains 


Lia Romano 

Department of Architecture, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II 

 Online paper: Fighting fires. Jean-Far Eustache de Saint-Far’s contribution to the debate on fireproof constructions in France at the end of the eighteenth century

 Abstract: Looks at the contribution of the artist-engineer Jean Far Eustach de Saint-Fer (1746-1828) to the debate on the construction of fire proof floors and the promotion of the use of hollow clay pots


2pm Online Session 3: Concrete


Andreas Thuy 

ETH Zurich, Switzerland 

 The ‘Pilzdecken’ of the Federal Granary in Altdorf: “a paragon facility for the modern art of building”

 Abstract: Paper on concrete and its use by the Swiss engineer Robert Maillart (1872-1940) to produce a 1909 patent for Pilzdecken (girderless slabs showing Maillart’s system in action in the building the Federal Granary in the Swiss city of Altdorf constructed in 1912. 


Ilaria Giannetti 

Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”, Italy 

 Reinforced concrete, industry and design: Balency prefabricated panels between France and Italy

 Abstract: Paper looks the Balency prefabricated concrete panel system and how it was used in France and Italy. The Balency system was invented in France in 1948, patented in 1950 ad introduced to the French market 1952 and into Italy in 1964. The article details the system and its adoption, with clear diagrams and photographs showing how it worked


Sofia Nannini 

Politecnico di Torino, Italy 

 Icelandic Concrete Surfaces: Guðjón Samúelsson’s Steining (1930–50)

 Abstract: Paper on Steining, a render specifically designed to protect concrete surfaces from the freeze-thaw problems associated with the cold and used in Iceland and invented by Guöjón Samúelsson in 1930. 


4pm Online Session 4: Professions and Professionals


Valentina Burgassi 

Dipartimento di Architettura e Design, Politecnico di Torino - École Pratique des Hautes Études, 

Mauro Volpiano

Dipartimento di Architettura e Design, Politecnico di Torino 

 Tradition and innovation: the construction of court palaces and the role of professional figures in eighteenth-century Piedmont

 Abstract: This paper explores the construction of the sixteenth and seventeenth century buildings of the Savoy Court in Piedmont. These are well documented, with building accounts and drawings providing valuable insights into the construction process at the time. 


Christiane Weber 

Universität Innsbruck, Austria 

 Online paper: Professional organisations of Architects and Engineers and their journals in nineteenth century German States

 Abstract: Looks at the professional schools, publications and professional organisations for architects and engineers in the 39 German States before the unification in 1871.


Mike Chrimes

Institution of Civil Engineers Panel for Historical Engineering Works 

 Jesse Hartley in 1797: evidence on the making of the Liverpool Docks Engineer

 Abstract: The paper examines a new piece of evidence on the life of Jesse Hartley (1780-1860), the engineer of the Liverpool Docks. Hartley’s papers were burned after his death but there are a few chance survivals. This paper looks at a diary from 1797, which contains the appointments for the young trainee engineer and gives an idea of his movements. Chrimes compares this to other sources and diaries of the period.


6pm Online Session 5: Iron


Katerina Maria Chalvatzi

ETH Zurich, Institute of Conservation and Building Archaeology (IDB)

 Online paper: Early iron in Theatre Construction: the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris

 Abstract: Paper detailing the use of iron to create the roofs and hollow pts for the vaults of a theatre in Paris constructed in the 1780s


Tom F. Peters

Emeritus Professor, Lehigh University, Penn., USA

 Louis Bruyère’s innovative iron bridges and their contribution to the development of modern iron construction

 Abstract: Paper detailing Louis Bruyère’s innovative  use of iron to create bridges 1790-1830


Sara E. Wermiel

Boston University and MIT, Mass., USA

 Introduction of the Rolled I-beam in the U.S.A. in the 1850s, Revisited

 Abstract: This paper discusses the first two ironworks to roll I-beams in the U.S. in the 1850s