History of Innovation

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1908: Colὸnia Gϋell – Barcelona, Spain

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Building: Colὸnia Gϋell
Location: Barcelona, Spain
By: Antoni Gaudi
Construction: 1908 –

Innovation Genre: Masonry
Innovation Aspect: Gravity/Upside-Down Tension Models

In 1898, Antoni Gaudi began the concept for the Colὸnia Gϋell church and crypt. The construction began in 1908, and the crypt was completed in 1914 (church incomplete). Gaudi designed the crypt and church using gravity models (upside-down tension models) that he took photos of then turned over and traced the form of the building over. By inverting tension models, Gaudi was able to simulate the effects gravity would play on the structural integrity of the building. In the photo of the building today, the “roof” of the structure was actually to be the first floor of the church; the actual building present is only the crypt of the Colὸnia Gϋell.

The discovery of gravity models allowed for architects and engineers to easily perform structural analysis to influence form. Although this is not nearly accurate enough for today’s structural standards for analyzing a structure, it is a good “rule-of-thumb” for initiating form.


Written by Lauren Brannom

October 7, 1908 at 7:46 pm

1885: Daimler Reitwagen – Stuttgart, Germany

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Invention: Daimler Reitwagen
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Inventors: Gottlieb Daimler & Wilhelm Maybach
Patented: 3 April 1885

Innovation Genre: Transportation
Innovation Aspect: First Petroleum-Powered Engine

Although this isn’t the first motorcycle – 3 predecessor steam motorcycle, this was the first gasoline internal combustion motorcycle. Daimler recruited his employee, Maybach, to work with him in a garden shed converted to an experimental workshop in 1882. Together they created this single-cylinder engine. Their original intention was to place this engine in a full-sized carriage, but it was not powerful enough to power the vehicle. Daimler’s 17-year-old son was the first to test the motorcycle in November 18, 1885. It put out half of a horsepower at 600 rpm giving it a speed of 7 miles per hour. The seat also caught on fire from the ride. By 1886 the Reitwagen was abandoned for a four-wheeled version.

This innovation was the first transition from stem power machines to petroleum powered machines. Although the innovation had little impact during its time, it led to modern transportation of building materials, workers, and architects/engineers to the structures site.

Written by Lauren Brannom

April 3, 1885 at 7:49 pm

1883: Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain

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Building: Sagrada Familia
Location: Barcelona, Spain
By: Antoni Gaudi
Construction: 19 March 1883 –

Innovation Genre: Masonry
Innovation Aspects: Complex Geometry.
The building design was originally created by Francisco de Paula del Villar in 1882, but all record disappeared in a fire. In 1883, Gaudi was commissioned to completely re-design the church until his death in 1926 (building continued by many builders after). Gaudi was inspired by nature to create complex geometric forms – hyperbolic paraboloid, hyperboloid, helicoid, and cone. The helicoid was associated with movement and the hyperboloid was associated to light for Gaudi. He was one of the first architects who discovered the usefulness of the hyperboloid – instead of using curved beam to create curved surfaces, this shape can be made from straight beams. In the Sagrada Familia, hyperboloid vaults are placed in the center of two intersecting inverted catenary arches. To make catenary arches, upside-down tension models frame them. This was an easy method to make non-circular arches that were able to distribute the forces around an opening to the ground.

These innovations allowed for architects and engineers to build more diverse structures while using materials efficiently and maintaining structural integrity.

Gaudi died in 1926, but the design and methods that he innovated continued to be used for the completion of the building, which (as of 2013) is complete other than some exterior details.`

Written by Lauren Brannom

March 19, 1883 at 7:47 pm

1882: Pearl Street Station – New York City, New York

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Building: Edison Illuminating Company’s Pearl Street Station
Location: New York City, New York
Chief Engineer: Charles L. Clarke
Operation: 4 September 1882 – 1890

Innovation Genre: Electricity
Innovation Aspects: First Electric Power Plant

The first electric power plant was powered by a single direct current (DC) generator driver by a custom made Porter-Allen steam engine (175 horsepower at 700 rpm). The chief engineer for Edison was Charles L. Clarke. This plant served 85 customers in the lower Manhattan, and powered 400 lamps in its original design. By 1884, the Pearl Street served 508 customers and powered 10,164 lamps. Later, the Porter-Allen engines were replaced by Armington & Sims engines, which were more reliable. In 1890, the station burnt down destroying all but one dynamo that now resides in the Greenfield Village Museum in Dearborn, MI.  `

This innovation allowed for many people to be served by a single power source. It furthered the advancement of construction by allowing architects and engineers to work longer days, by allowing contractors an easier method to powering machines, and eventually powering future technologies of modern construction.

Written by Lauren Brannom

September 4, 1882 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Engines