Published by Swiss publisher Birkhäuser Verlag in collaboration with the Estonian Museum of Architecture, the book “Miracles in Concrete. Structural Engineer August Komendant” is the first comprehensive assessment of the Estonian-American expert on reinforced concrete structures, who collaborated with another Estonian-born talent, architect Louis Kahn.
The book provides an overview of Komendant’s long career spanning from the 1930s to the 1980s and includes 500 illustrations, majority of them published for the first time.
“The book sheds light on the pivotal role Komendant played as an expert on reinforced concrete structures in such iconic projects as Habitat ’67 (architect Moshe Safdie), the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the Kimbell Art Museum (both by architect Louis Kahn),” the Estonian Museum of Architecture said in a statement.
August Komendant’s portfolio contains more than 200 projects – some of which he designed independently, others in collaboration with architects and fellow engineers. The most significant of these projects are included in the book.
The book also contains essays by renowned architectural historian, professor Kenneth Frampton, as well as selected articles by Komendant. The only known in-depth interview with the engineer – conversation with architect Oscar Tenreiro of Caracas, Venezuela, from 1985 – is published here for the first time in English.
Komendant’s designs built around the world
Komendant (1906-1992) began his professional career in 1934 in Estonia after studies at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany.
During one fruitful decade, he contributed to the construction of several modern strategic institutions the young Republic of Estonia needed to build – such as the Kadriorg Stadium grandstand in Tallinn (architect Elmar Lohk, 1938).
With his lectures (1937–39), Komendant laid the foundations for a school of concrete shells affiliated with the Tallinn University of Technology and contributed significantly to reinforced concrete innovation in Estonia during the interwar years. In 1944, he left Estonia to escape the Soviet repressions.
During the post-war decades, several of Komendant’s designs were built in Germany, the United States, Canada, Venezuela and elsewhere. Concrete, a material that many consider to be bleak, cold and dull was Komendant’s passion throughout.
With Louis Kahn, Komendant collaborated on at least 15 projects, including the Richards Medical Research Laboratories (1957–1965), the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (1959–1965), the Kimbell Art Museum (1966–1972) and the Olivetti-Underwood Factory (1966–1970).
Carl-Dag Lige, the editor of the “Miracles in Concrete. Structural Engineer August Komendant”, will give a guest lecture on the legacy of Komendant in Philadelphia at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, on 21 November.