Deutsch The Shukhov Tower Foundation


"His technical ideas brought world's recognition to the Russian school of engineering and stay actual to this day."
Vladimir Putin, The President of Russia

"The first oil pipeline, oil pumps, the first pipeline to transport kerosene and reservoirs for the oil products storage, the first tank barges, oil processing and the creation of cracking - this is all V.G. Shukhov. As a matter of fact, we develop his engineering ideas when today we increase the extraction, lay pipelines, build tanker fleet, increase the depth of oil processing."
Vagit Alekperov, The President of oil company "Lukoil"

Vladimir Grigorievich Shukhov was born on August 28, 1853 in the small town of Graivoron, Kursk province. His father was the Director of the local branch of the St. Petersburg state bank. Vladimir finished the school in St. Petersburg and in 1871 entered the Emperor's Moscow Technical School in Moscow (now the Moscow State Technical University - MGTU ). After he finished IMTU in 1876, Shukhov participated in the trip to USA, the aim of which was the collecting of information about the latest technical achievements. Shukhov visited the World exhibition in Philadelphia, as well as the machine-building plants in Pittsburg, and studied the arrangement of the American railway transport.

In 1878 Shukhov moved to Baku, where he participated in the constructional and engineering works at oil deposits. There his amazing creative energy became apparent. Shukhov became the author of the project and the chief engineer for the construction of the first oil pipeline in Russia with the length of 10 km. The customer was the financial giant - firm "Nobel Brothers". Next year he designed the second oil pipeline, and the world's first pipeline for pre-heated black oil he built a bit later. In 1878 Shukhov developed an original structure of the cylindrical metal reservoir for oil storage. In 1879 he patented the atomizer for black oil burning. In subsequent years there were made numerous new developments and also were created various pumps for lifting oil from wells, was invented the airlift (gas-lift), designed and built oil tank ships and plants for fractional distillation of oil. There was designed the world's first industrial plant for the continuous thermal cracking of oil (patent of Russian empire �12926 dated November 27, 1891). Shukhov became the author and chief engineer of the projects of the first Russian main oil pipelines: Baku-Batumi (883 km, 1907) and later Groznyi-Tuapse (618 km, 1928). Thus, Shukhov brought in a significant contribution into the development of Russian oil industry.

In 1896 Shukhov invented a new water-tube boiler in horizontal and vertical versions (patents of Russian empire �15 434 and �15 435 dated June 27, 1896). In 1900 his steam boilers were marked with a high award - at the World exhibition in Paris Shukhov got the gold medal. Thousands of steam boilers were built before and after the revolution according to Shukhov's patents.

Approximately from 1885 Shukhov began to build the first Russian tankers (the first German oceanic tanker with a displacement of 3000 ton was built in 1886). The assembly was done by the exactly planned stages with the use of the standardized sections at the shipyards in Tsaritsyn (Volgograd) and Saratov.

In 1886-1889 Shukhov together with his colleagues developed the project of the Moscow's new system of water supply.

In 1892 Shukhov built his first railway bridges. In the subsequent years 417 bridges were built according to his projects at the different railway lines. Simultaneously with the construction of bridges Shukhov started the development of the overhead cover structures. Shukhov managed to design and practically realize the structures of various coverings distinguishing with such a principal novelty, that it would be just enough for him to take a special, honorable place among the famous engineers-builders of that time. Till 1890 Shukhov created exclusively light arch structures with thin inclined tightening. Even today these arches serve as bearing elements of the glass vault over the biggest Moscow shops: GUM (former Upper trade lines) and Petrovskiy arcade.

In 1895 Shukhov submitted the claim for a patent on lattice coverings in the form of shells. That meant lattices from strip and angle steel with rhombus-shaped cells. They were used to build the big-span light hanging coverings and lattice vaults. The development of these lattice coverings marked the creation of a completely new type of bearing structure. For the first time Shukhov shaped a hanging covering into a finished spatial structure, which was used again only decades later. Even in comparison with the structure of metal vaults highly developed by that time, his lattice vaults formed only of one type of core elements represented a significant step forward. In this connection, in his basic research of the metal construction structures Christian Schadlich notes the following: "Shukhov's structures finish the efforts of the XIX century engineers to create original metal structures and at the same time they show the way far to the XX century. They express a significant progress: the core lattice of the then traditional spatial trusses, leaning on the basic and auxiliary elements was replaced by a net of equal structural elements" (Schadlich Ch., Das Eisen in der Architektur des 19.Jhdt., Habilitationsschrift, Weimar, 1967, S.104). During the All-Russia exhibition in Nizhniy Novgorod in 1896 Shukhov presented to the public's judgment his new structures of the overhead covers. Totally it was built eight exhibition pavilions of the sufficiently impressive sizes. Besides, in the center of one of the halls with lattice hanging covering there was a hanging covering made of thin tin-plate (membrane), which had never been used earlier in construction. Besides those pavilions, there was built a unique lattice steel water tower in the form of a hyperboloid shell.

The constructions got wide resonance and the foreign press reported in detail about Shukhov's structures ("The Nijni-Novgorod exhibition: Water tower, room under construction, springing of 91 feet span", The Engineer, London, 83, 1897, 19.3. - P. 292-294). The surprise was caused by a high technical perfection of the constructions. The success at the exhibition may for certain explain the fact that in the subsequent years Shukhov got a lot of orders for the construction of factory workshops, roofed railway platforms and water towers.

In 1897 Shukhov built the workshop with spatially bent lattice shells for the metallurgical plant in Vyksa, which in comparison with ordinary vaults with a single curvature meant a significant constructional improvement. Luckily, this bold structure of the overhead cover, the early predecessor of the modern lattice shells, has preserved in a small provincial town until now.

The structure of the tower, exhibited at Nizhniy Novgorod, which was a lattice steel shell in the form of a hyperboloid of rotation, enjoyed the biggest commercial success. Shukhov patented this invention shortly before the opening of the exhibition. The shell of the hyperboloid of rotation was a completely new constructional form, never used before. It allowed creating a spatially bent lattice surface out of straight cores installed with an inclination. As a result, the structure of the tower turned out to be light and rigid. At the height of 25,60 meters the Nizhniy Novgorod water tower carried a tank with a capacity of 114.000 liters to supply the whole territory of the exhibition with water. This world's first hyperboloid tower has remained one of the most beautiful constructions of Shukhov. It was sold to a rich landowner Nechaev-Maltsev, who installed it in his estate Polibino near Lipetsk. The tower stays there even today. The immediately increased demand for water towers brought a lot of orders. In comparison with ordinary towers, the Shukhov's lattice tower was more convenient and cheaper in respect of constructional techniques.

For the Moscow Main post office, built in 1912, Shukhov designed the glass overhead cover of the operational hall with upper light. For that he invented the horizontal (even) spatial truss, which can be considered as a predecessor of spatial trusses from seamless tubes developed by K. Vaksman and M. Mengeringhausen in 1940s.

Shukhov always found time to study Russian and foreign special literature, to maintain an active exchange of opinions with colleagues and also to devote himself to a passionate hobby - photography.

Since 1910 Shukhov participated in the development of sea mines, platforms for heavy guns and of the caissons for sea docks.

The last significant work made by Shukhov before the revolution was the platform of Kievskiy (then Bryanskiy) railway station in Moscow (1912-1917, span width - 48 m, height - 30 m, length - 230 m). The project of the whole station building belonged to Ivan Rerberg.

After the revolution in 1917 the situation in Russia changed drastically. The firm and the plant were nationalized and the workers elected the chief engineer Shukhov as the firm's head. At the age of 61 Shukhov found himself in a completely new situation. Various reservoirs, overhead covers, bridge structures, boreholes and pipelines, hyperboloid water towers, gas-holders, supports of main pipelines, cranes and many other things were built in 1917-1918.

After the Soviet Russia had been formed, Shukhov got one of the main constructional orders: the construction of a tower for the radio station in Shabolovka in Moscow. The tower was the further modification of lattice hyperboloid structures and it consisted of six blocks of the appropriate form. In mid March, 1922 the radio station tower was put in operation. This unbelievably light, openwork tower with details, that win over by their simplicity and the original form, is the pattern of a brilliant structure and the acme of the constructional art. The construction of the Shukhov Tower caused general delight.

Nine years later Shukhov surpassed this tower structure by building three pairs of lattice multi-tier hyperboloid pylons of the passage of the high voltage electric main over Oka River near Nizhniy Novgorod. Their height was 20, 69 and 128 meters. And though the supports had to withstand the weight of the multi-ton electric cables, their structure is even more light and elegant, and the stepped change of lattice structures from the bottom towards the top follows the certain rules. This significant memorial of the technical thought is built on the Oka River, aside from the main highways.

In 1924 the delegation of the American "Sinckler Oil" paid a visit to Shukhov. The "Sinckler Oil" firm protested the personal right appropriated by the Rockefeller "Standard Oil" concern on the discovery of oil cracking. It indicated that the patent of the American engineer Barton used by the "Standard Oil" concern was the modified patent of Shukhov. The delegation came to check this assertion. Shukhov proved Americans that the Barton method was just the slightly changed modification of his 1891 patents. In this connection a long chain of litigations began in America. Eventually, it finished by clinching an agreement of lawsuit between the American companies, in order not to buy the patent in Russia.

At the age of 79 Shukhov witnessed the implementation of his project for the continuous thermal oil cracking, which he had already developed in his youth. In his presence the "Soviet cracking" plant was put in operation in Baku in 1932.

In 1929 Shukhov was elected the honorable member of the USSR Academy of sciences. During his last years Vladimir Grigorievich led a secluded way of life and accepted only friends and old fellow workers. In February, 1939 Shukhov died and was buried in Moscow, at the Novodevichje cemetery.

The last work of Shukhov in the field of constructional technique was the preservation of the architectural memorial. The minaret of the famous Madrasah Ulugbeka in Samarkand, the construction of which is dated from XV century, tilted after the earthquake, so that there was a threat of its falling down. This work was successfully fulfilled not only according to the Shukhov's project, but also under his guidance. There is nothing but to wish that the constructions of the outstanding engineer are restored and preserved with the same thoroughness and skill.

Professor, Doctor Rainer Graefe
Director of the Institute of the constructional history
the protection of architectural memorials within the University of Innsbruck, Austria
The translation of Sergey Anisiphorov, in abridgement.
"Vladimir G. Suchov 1853-1939. Die Kunst der sparsamen Konstruktion.", Rainer Graefe,
Ph.D., und andere, 192 S., Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, 1990.

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