photo credits: J. Wayman Williams  





Learn more about prestressed concrete.


Pierre Lardy (1903–1958) entered the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (Federal Institute of Technology) department of mathematics and physics in the fall of 1923, graduating in 1928. He took a position teaching math for a year in Schiers and then returned to Zurich to study for an advanced degree in mathematics. But structures had begun to take hold, so immediately after finishing mathematics, he launched himself into the study of structural engineering. Following his studies, he opened a consulting practice, but the approaching war disrupted his engineering work, and in 1942, he accepted a position as an assistant to Professor Max Ritter (no relation to Wilhelm Ritter), who had begun to study the most revolutionary idea in structures at that time—prestressed concrete.

Lardy, initially working with Ritter, went on to play a significant role, through his teaching and publications, in bringing prestressed concrete to the European engineers of the immediate postwar era. He published a book with Max Ritter on the subject in 1946. While Ritter surely stimulated its publication, the systematic development of design and analysis was entirely the work of Lardy and was built on his previous publications.

Ritter’s sudden death in 1946 resulted almost immediately in the appointment of Lardy as his successor. The most significant new aspect of Lardy’s early teaching was his continued reference to the aesthetics of structure, not as an isolated topic but as one integral to the engineer’s design. Although he brought that pedagogical focus to all his teaching, his most important influence was on a small but highly distinguished group of students whom he singled out to be his assistants after they had graduated. At the time, formal graduate education was not offered in European engineering schools; instead professors chose certain gifted students to be teaching assistants, research assistants, and aides to the professor’s consulting practice. Lardy counted two of the most gifted designers of the twentieth century among his assistants, Heinz Isler and Christian Menn.

© 2003 The Princeton University Art Museum