Monday, April 27, 2015

Save the Shukhov Tower!

I'll start off by saying that the Shukhov Tower has already been saved. Russian news was slow to cross the pond, and slower to translate so by the time I heard, the story was in the past tense. In February of 2014 the Russian State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting agreed to the dismantling of the tower. On July 10th 2014 the Russian Ministry of Culture announced that demolition would violate the tower's protected status as a cultural monument. It was a stay of execution. But in-between these events was an outcry from historians, radio geeks and architects. More here.

Westerners may never have heard of it, but try to imagine that the Russian Federation had it's own Eiffel tower and you'll be on the right track. When the drama began the Committee explained their dilemma;  the aging tower had fallen into such irrevocable disrepair that it needed dismantled immediately so there could be any hope that it could be reassembled at a future date. People didn't like that answer. The Committee claimed the structure is on the literal verge of collapse. Petitions circulated.  One, drafted by historian Jean-Louis Cohen and photographer Richard Pare was sent directly to President Vladimir Putin.

The eye-catching tower was competed on March 19th, 1922. It was designed by Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov. It was not his only work. Shukhov built two similar towers stood on the Oka River The towers were a part of a 110kV three-phase AC transmission line. they were commissioned in 1927 and 1929. But the power lines were decommissioned in 1989.One of the towers was demolished and sold for scrap metal in 2005, possibly illegally. Now there is only one, and it is the world’s only diagrid hyperboloid transmission tower. A missing twin to the worlds only diagrid hyperboloid radio tower.

Shukhov originally planned for the radio tower in Moscow to be 360 meters tall. Material shortages led to a more conservative height of 128 meters. The towers were commissioned by Vladimir Lenin, the tower design consists of a series of stacked 25-meter hyperboloids of diminishing diameter. Shukhov built at least 200 towers using the design to hold up antennas or even water tanks. he was so expert with hyperboloid geometry that the U.S. Navy acquired Shukhov’s patents a to build lattice masts on ships.

So, about the radio connection. When the German critic Walter Benjamin visited Moscow in 1928, he noted the towers in his diary about "the enormous Moscow radio transmitter, whose shape is different from any other I have seen.” Another Russian radio blog noted the towers as a "legendary landmarks of radio broadcast[ing]."  It was true.It's hard to identify what stations broadcast on the structure. One Shukhov website listed off two early stations: an unnamed Moscow radiotelegraph station, and "Big Komintern." The latter was a 12 kW station that signed on in 1924. It was built by the Nizhegorodskaya Radio Laboratory (NRL.) It was celebrated at the time as a "trumpet of the radio revolution."