segunda-feira, 4 de março de 2013

Monster Machines: The Life And Explosive Death Of The World’s First Ferris Wheel

Monster Machines: The Life And Explosive Death Of The World’s First Ferris Wheel
1893 marked the 400-year anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the New World. To commemorate the anniversary, the 51st US Congress of 1890 declared that a great fair — the World’s Columbian Exposition — would be held on April 9, 1893, in Chicago. Daniel H. Burnham, father of the skyscraper, would oversee its construction. If only he could find enough civil engineers to pull it off.
Despite the formation of a group of engineers and architects known as the “Saturday Afternoon Club” that met weekly to discuss the expo’s progress and acted as a straw poll regarding architectural and engineering decisions, few civil engineers wanted to actively participate in the work. So Burnham employed an age-old, surefire tactic to drum up volunteers for the project — he bagged on the French. Burnham first chided the club for growing complacent in their success and swaddling themselves in accolades for past deeds rather than striving to exceed their previous triumphs and introduce some — any — novel feature in their architectural works. Nothing “met the expectations of the people,” as he put it.
Burnham argued that the Eiffel Tower, which was built by Gustave Eiffel for the Paris Exposition of 1889 — and centennial of the French Revolution — was leagues beyond anything the gathered crowd had designed in recent memory. It was high time that the Americans launched a cultural counter-punch to reclaim their prestige.
This got the crowd’s attention — specifically, the ear of George W. Ferris, a bridge-builder from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and owner of the G.W.G. Ferris & Co., which inspected structural steel used in railroads and bridges. While the group rallied against initial suggestions of just building a bigger tower, Ferris sketched out a revolutionary new attraction on his napkin that would put the Eiffel to shame.
The buttressed steel wheel that Ferris designed was truly original — so much so that the structure’s design had to be derived from first principles because no one on Earth actually had experience constructing a machine of this size.
By the winter of 1892, Ferris had the acquired the $US600,000 in funding he needed but had just four months of the coldest winter in living memory to complete construction before the expo opened. To meet the deadline, Ferris split the wheel’s construction among several local machine shops and constructed individual component sets congruently and assembled everything on-site.
Read more in Gizmodo

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