Deck-Stiffened Arch Bridges of Robert Maillart

by David P. Billington, (A.M.ASCE), Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; Princeton Univ., Princeton, NJ,

Serial Information: Journal of the Structural Division, 1973, Vol. 99, Issue 7, Pg. 1527-1539

Document Type: Journal Paper


This paper describes Maillart's controversial analysis for the elegant thin concrete arches he designed from 1924 to 1934. Starting from a clear understanding of structural behavior, Maillart designed these arches so that almost all the live-loading bending would be taken by the stiff deck, thus leaving the thin arch to carry little more than axial compression. The validity of his simplified analysis is confirmed by comparing his results to those from a modern computer analysis. By emphasizing design thinking instead of analytic refinement, Maillart achieved works of art in structural engineering. His approach is then contrasted to American arch studies during the same decade (1924–1934) to show how American emphasis on analytic refinement seems to have narrowed the vision of design possibilities. As late as 1972 Maillart's design ideas seem still do not to be clearly understood.

Subject Headings: Arch bridges | Arches | Decks | Structural behavior | Computer analysis | Concrete | Structural design | Live loads

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