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Anton Tedesko

1903 - 1994

Anton Tedesko was born in Germany on May 25, 1903 and was raised in Graz and Vienna, Austria. He graduated in 1926 from the Technical University of Vienna with a Diploma in Structural Engineering.

After working as an engineer for several years in Europe and the United States, Tedesko joined the German firm of Dyckerhoff and Widmann (D&W) in 1930. At D&W, Tedesko worked under the great German engineers Franz Dischinger and Ulrich Finsterwalder who were making rapid developments in the theory and construction of thin shell roofs. Dischinger had been one of the designers for the pioneering Zeiss planetarium hemispherical dome (1922) using a self-supporting geodesic system of reinforcing gunnited with concrete. This dome gave rise to the patented Zeiss-Dywidag (Z-D) system, which was later adapted for barrel roofs. In 1932 Tedesko was sent to the Chicago firm of Roberts and Schaefer (R&S) as a representative of D&W and to promote the use of thin shell concrete roofs of the Z-D system. The first shell of the Z-D system built in the United States was Tedesko's design for the 1934 Hayden Planetarium dome in New York (81 ft diameter, 3 in thick). The earliest barrel shell roof in the U.S. was Tedesko's design for the Brook Hill Farm Dairy Barn at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair (36 ft span, 3 in thick). After the Fair, the shell was used for a full-scale, instrumented load testing. Tedesko's design for the 1936 Hershey Arena roof in Pennsylvania (222 ft span, 3.5 in thick) was the first short barrel shell in the U.S. and represented a significant departure from German practice.

 During World War II and the years following, Tedesko designed a number of long-spanning thin shell concrete roofs to serve as aircraft hangars. Tedesko's longest spanning shell was the 340 ft span used for U.S. Air Force Hangars at Rapid City, South Dakota and Limestone, Maine built in 1948. These shells were only 5 in thick. In 1950 Tedesko introduced a second innovation-the ribless shell-in a scale model test of 15 ft span and 1.5 in thickness at Harvey, Illinois. The first full-scale ribless shell was completed in 1958 for an Air Force warehouse in Olmstead, Pennsylvania (39 ft span, 3 in thick). Tedesko's work reached beyond thin shell structures and includes the structural design of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. When completed in 1966, the VAB enclosed the greatest total volume of any building in the world. Tedesko even submitted a design for the new Williamsburg Bridge in 1988 at the age of 84, in collaboration with his mentor Finsterwalder who was then 90 years old. Tedesko was also known for his oral and written communication skills and emphasized the importance of good communication in engineering projects across all parties and disciplines involved. Anton Tedesko introduced the thin shell concrete roof construction to the United States and was responsible for the design of over 60 shells during his career. His engineering design approach relied on a balance of theory, experience with full-scale structures and close collaboration with contractors. Rather than simply importing thin shell concrete designs from Europe, he developed new and innovative designs to accommodate engineering and construction practices in the United States.

In 1998 the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE) Foundation created the Anton Tedesko Medal in his honor. Anton Tedesko's personal writings are preserved in the Princeton Tedesko Archive at Princeton University.

Resources: Hines, E.M. and Billington, D.P. (2004). "Anton Tedesko and the Introduction of Thin Shell Concrete Roofs in the United States." J. of Structural Engineering , 130 (11), 1639-50. Schlaich, J. (2004). "Anton Tedesko (1903-1994)." Structural Engineering International , November, 324-326. Billington, D. P. (1982). "Anton Tedesko: Thin shells and esthetics." ASCE J. Struct. Div. , 108(11), 2539-2554. "Anton Tedesko," http://en.structurae.de/persons/data/index.cfm?ID=d000037 , (2006) National Academy of Engineering (1996). "Anton Tedesko," Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 8, p. 262-267.