Eduardo Torroja Miret. Madrid. 27.VIII.1899-15.VI.1961. Distinguished civil engineer, designer, scientist, researcher, executive and teacher. He played a major role in the scientific and technical revolution that preluded the brisk development of reinforced and pre-stressed concrete in the first half of the twentieth century and the concomitant evolution of the construction industry. He is internationally renowned for his design engineering, teaching and research, as well as for fostering the institution of modern standards for reinforced and prestressed concrete structures.


     He was born into a family with a strong scientific bent. His architect and mathematician father, Eduardo Torroja Caballé, was full professor at the Universities of Valencia and Madrid, where he renovated Spanish mathematics and propagated Von Stautd's projective geometry. He was named a fellow of the Royal Academy of Mathematics, Physics and Natural Science in 1893. Eduardo Jr's brother José María, a civil engineer, astronomer and topographer, authored a host of articles about aerial photogrammetry. Their brother Antonio was a mining engineer and PhD. in mathematics with a full professorship at the University of Barcelona, where he eventually became vice-chancellor. Finally, the fourth brother Juan, PhD. in physics. worked in Leonardo Torres Quevedo's research laboratory and was eventually appointed director of the Spanish National Research Council institute that bears Torres Quevedo's name. Like their father, both José María and Antonio were members of the Royal Academy of Science.



     Eduardo Torroja Miret, whose penchant for engineering induced him to enrol in the Madrid School of Civil Engineering in 1917, earned his degree there in 1923. Founded in 1802 by Agustín de Betancourt, the Madrid School had been modelled on the Paris École des Ponts et Chaussées. In 1926 Torroja married Carmen Cavanillas Prosper, with whom he had four children: Carmen, Mercedes, José Antonio and Eduardo.



     Torroja's designing talent was perceptible from the time he took his very first engineering job with Hidrocivil, a construction company founded and headed by his teacher José Eugenio Ribera. As a member of the company's engineering team, he created his first innovative reinforced concrete designs, authoring, among others, the famous Tempul Aqueduct over the River Guadalete (Figure 1) at Jerez de la Frontera (1927), the thin shell domes that formed part of the foundation caissons in San Telmo Bridge at Seville (1926) and the concentric hyperboloid reinforced brick shells for the foundations in Sancti-Petri Bridge at Cadiz (1926).





Tempul Aqueduct





     In 1927 he left the company and set up his own engineering office in Madrid where he cradled new ideas that led to innovative designs and works. His inspiration targeted not only engineering per se, but extended as well to the Modernist architecture defended by Le Corbusier during the first International Congress for Modern Architecture (CIAM) held in 1928 at Sarraz Vaud Castle, Switzerland. Eduardo Torroja Miret was one of the few engineers with the artistic sensitivity and technical ingenuity able to merge structural form with the architectural conceit of which it formed an essential part. Alongside Robert Maillart (Switzerland), Eugène Freyssinet (France) and Pier Luigi Nervi (Italy), he is often regarded as one of the four most influential engineers in the technical and aesthetic development of concrete in the first half of the twentieth century.




     In 1927 he was nominated by José Eugenio Ribera to sit as an engineer on the Technical Committee formed to build the Madrid university campus under the leadership of Modesto López Otero, in conjunction with architects Agustín Aguirre, Pascual Bravo, Miguel de los Santos, Manuel Sánchez Arcas and Luís Lacasa. His involvement was not restricted to engineering design and works, but included masterful participation in most of the architectural structures, assimilating the new Modernist architectural aesthetic from the outset, which he integrated in his innovative and original structures. The outcome of that activity includes the three viaducts built on the university campus in 1933, Quince Ojos, Aire and Deportes; the retaining wall for Cantarranas Stream (1933); and the stadium tramway station (1933). He also took part in the structural engineering for the Faculties of Science (1934), Medicine (1934) and Pharmacy (1934), the Students' Dormitory (1935), the steam power plant (1935) and the university hospital (1935).



     During that period prior to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Eduardo Torroja Miret designed some of his most famous and outstanding reinforced concrete shells. He earned international renown for his Algeciras Market (1935), with its spherical thin shell roof just 9 cm thick, supported by eight perimetric columns and spanning the 47.62‑metre diameter of the resulting circle; the Recoletos Jai-alai Court at Madrid (1936), in which two cylinders measuring 12.20 and 6.40 m in diameter (two-lobed cross-section) and 8 cm thick intersected to form a thin shell roof that spanned the 55 m between the enclosure walls; or Madrid's Zarzuela Race Track (1935), whose stands are roofed by a thin shell consisting of a series of horizontal hyperboloids just 5 cm thick at the outer edge, which cantilevers 12.80 m from the supports. Unfortunately, the jai-alai court was severely damaged during the Civil War and collapsed as a result.


 fig2 4



     Torroja's had already acquired an interest in experimentation and research in those initial years of his career. In the early nineteen thirties he founded Investigaciones de la Construcción S.A., ICON; under his management, the company specialised in testing models as a method for analysing structural behaviour. This enabled him to build large-scale shell structures at a time when there were no reliable methods of structural calculation able to ensure their feasibility. The micro-concrete models for the Algeciras Market and Recoletos Jai-alai Court, both on a scale of 1:10, received particular acclaim. In 1934 he founded the Instituto Técnico de la Construcción y Edificación (Technical Institute for Construction and Building) with a small group of engineers and architects, including José M.ª Aguirre, Alfonso Peña Boeuf, Modesto López Otero, Manuel Sánchez Arcas, Gaspar Blein and José Ángel Petrirena. The ITCE was the first private organisation created in Spain with the ambitious aim of furthering the study, promotion and publication of all architecture- and civil construction-related subjects. The institute met a need for construction research centres in general, since the only other institution in place at the time was the Central Laboratory for Testing Construction Materials, a Ministry of Public Works body founded in 1898 and engaging in research under the aegis of the School of Civil Engineering. The ITCE, which collaborated closely with industry professionals, filled the building construction research gap. This was also the timeframe when Eduardo Torroja, together with Enrique García Reyes, founded the journal entitled Hormigón y Acero, which became a vehicle for publishing scientific and technical information on domestic and international progress in new materials, production, on-site assembly systems, and design and testing methods, as well as their application in contemporary works.




     After the war, Eduardo Torroja focused his engineering activity on rebuilding public works and turned his attention to the potential afforded by electro-welded steel structures. For the first time in Spain, he explored the possibilities of composite concrete-steel structures, the most prominent examples being his bridges at Tordera (1940), Posadas (1940) and Muga (1941). His most outstanding work in that period was the huge central arch in the Martín Gil Viaduct over the Esla Reservoir (1941) whose 209‑m span held the world record for several years.






     In 1939, Eduardo Torroja Miret was nominated by the Madrid School of Civil Engineering’s staff to teach the subject Structural Engineering. From then on, university teaching would be one of his lifetime callings. Over the years, he taught a number of subjects at the school: Properties of Materials and Elasticity, Fundamentals of Reinforced and Prestressed Concrete Design and Construction, Structural Engineering and Structural Typology. 


     But the activity he was fondest of began with the creation, in 1934, of the Technical Institute for Construction and Building. In 1939 this private organisation, initially presided by Modesto López Otero with Eduardo Torroja as secretary and funded at the outset by membership dues, became "associated" with the then recently created Spanish National Research Council, CSIC, thereby obtaining additional financial support. Torroja began to publish the institute's annals, but in those early years it was not particularly active, due to its founder's many engagements: in addition to his academic activities, he was appointed director of the Central Laboratory for Construction Materials Testing, while also devoting a significant portion of his time to his engineering firm. In any event, on the grounds of his scientific and research activities, like his father and brothers Antonio and José María before him, he was named a fellow of the Royal Academy of Mathematics, Physics and Natural Science. He delivered his acceptance speech in 1944.




     A change came in 1945, after the end of World War II, when a pervasive sense of the need for European unity began to materialise in an urge to pool technological development and further and coordinate research and experimentation. This feeling was particularly acute in an industry such as construction, that had become vital to the physical rebuild of a Europe devastated by war. Torroja saw the opportunity to integrate Spain in that European movement and decided to use the institute as a springboard. In 1946, its managers agreed to accept an invitation from the Juan de la Cierva Trust, a National Research Council body encompassing technical and applied research centres, to become a full-fledged member of that institution. In 1948 the new centre, going by the name Construction Engineering Institute, adopted its by-laws and shortly thereafter merged with the Cement Institute to form the Institute for Construction and Cement Engineering, ITCC. Under the new by-laws, the centre was to be managed by a board of directors whose members would be construction professionals and representatives and was entitled to receive financial support from the industry. Torroja was appointed director of the new centre.





     Under the circumstances, Torroja, who had drastically reduced his designing activity in the years prior, put all his energy into developing the ITCC and the Central Laboratory. As director, he was the driving force behind the construction of a new headquarters both for the laboratory and for the institute. The latter was completed in 1953. The simultaneous directorship of the two centres enabled him to coordinate what he viewed as complementary research efforts with no unnecessary overlapping, integrating the two groups of scientists in a common endeavour. In a matter of only a few years, the Central Laboratory became the benchmark for scale model structural analysis, testing structural designs submitted by many a European engineer. The ITCC studied the structural behaviour of reinforced and precast concrete, focusing on the industrialisation of construction and technical standards, especially in connection with the new probabilistic approach to structural safety. The journal Informes de la Construcción was also founded and the first issue released in 1948. Its articles on domestic and international scientific, technical and architectural developments featured articles describing works by Saarinen, Aalto, Nervi, Salvadori, Neutra, Le Corbusier, Lloyd Wright, Van der Rohe, Hossdorf and Candela, to name a few.




     Standing on his own international prestige, earned before he was 40 years old, Torroja used the ITCC and the Central Laboratory to integrate Spanish engineering in Europe at a time when it was politically difficult for Spain to attain international acceptance. In 1945 he was elected President of the newly created Réunion Internationale des Laboratoires d’Essais de Matériaux, RILEM. He took an active part in the creation of the Comité Européen du Béton, CEB, whose membership, despite the name, included both the United States and the USSR, and which played a decisive role in the development of European technical standards for reinforced concrete. He was also active in the Fédération Internationale de la Précontrainte, FIP, founded by Freyssinet, whom he succeeded as president in 1958. In that role, he promoted the creation of the CEB-FIP Joint Committee to harmonise reinforced and prestressed concrete standards. He was co-founder and first President of the International Association for Shell Structures, IASS, which, at his death in 1961, dedicated the cover of its journal to the Spanish engineer, printing the caption "Eduardo Torroja, founder" over a plan drawing of the reinforcement for the Algeciras Market. Moreover, Eduardo Torroja shared this international activity with the architects and engineers, physicists and chemists from the two research centres he directed, as well as with Spanish construction industry representatives, who at his urging also attended the meetings of these institutions.




     Beginning in 1953, with the Central Laboratory and the institute fully consolidated, Torroja resumed his engineering activity, albeit on a part-time basis. In light of the high cost of the formwork for his beloved non-cylindrical thin shells, for Pont de Suert Church (Lérida, 1954) he used a closed design, consisting of a set of reinforced brick double curvature shells. One of his most prominent works is the 3 000‑m3 water tower at Fedala, Morocco (1956), which clearly reflects the approach adopted in his designs. The vat is a vertical parabolic hyperboloid. By prestressing the concrete along its straight generators but not parallel to the surface as in standard practice, he ensured that the prestressing rib anchorages would be invisible from the outside, attaining a smoothness and simplicity of form in keeping with his aesthetic credo: functionality, structural veracity, formal simplicity. The toroidal roof over the tower, in turn, is made of reinforced brick.







In the last ten years of his life, Eduardo Torroja travelled abroad frequently, not only to attend congresses and meetings organised by the aforementioned technical institutions, but to deliver lectures and short courses wherever he was invited, while publishing books and articles in a number of languages. Eighty per cent of his writings in those ten years were published internationally, and only 20% nationally. His most famous book Philosophy of structures (1958) merits special mention, for in it he discussed the variation in the physical behaviour of a number of structures depending on factors such as the materials used and construction procedures, without resorting to mathematical calculation. He also devoted a chapter to his thoughts on structural aesthetics. The book was so widely acclaimed that it was translated and published in English, French, German, Italian and Japanese. His book The Structures of Eduardo Torroja (1958)  was originally published in the United States and translated into Spanish in 1999.






     Throughout his professional life, Eduardo Torroja Miret, led technical and scientific progress in concrete structures. But more than that, he authored major works and innovative designs that optimised and rationalised construction processes. In addition to his most prominent works, mentioned above, Torroja designed other distinctive structures: the Nuevos Ministerios underground station, Madrid (1934); Cáceres Theatre (1934); the roof on a church at Villaverde (1935); the Zarzuela Race Track water tower, Madrid (never built) (1935); Alloz Aqueduct, Navarre (1939); the central arch for Pedrido Bridge, La Corunna (1940); the Torrejón and Barajas airport hangars, Madrid (1942-1945); Corts Football Stadium, Barcelona (1943); the Cuatro Vientos airport hangar, Getafe (1949); Ascensión de Xerrallo Chapel, Lérida (1952); Sancti Espirit open Chapel, Lérida (1953); Canelles Dem, Lérida (1956); the roof for Club Táchira, Caracas, Venezuela (never built) (1957); the water towers at Khemisset and Souk-el-Arba, Morocco (1959) and San Nicolás Church, Gandía (1960).




     Eduardo Torroja Miret was distinguished over the years for his achievements. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Polytechnic University of Zurich and the Universities of Toulouse, Buenos Aires and Liège, as well as the Catholic University of Chile. He was corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Science and Art of Barcelona and the Academy of Science, Plastic and Liberal Arts of Cordoba. He was appointed Knight of the Grand Cross of Alfonso X the Learned and Knight of the Grand Cross of Civil Merit. After his death he was granted the title Marquis of Torroja.




     Eduardo Torroja died in his office at the Institute for Construction and Cement Engineering on 15 June 1961. In one of his desk drawers he left his colleagues a fond letter inferring that he knew his life was drawing to an end. Shortly thereafter, the institute changed its name to the Eduardo Torroja Institute for Construction and Cement (IETCC) and subsequently to the present Eduardo Torroja Institute for Construction Science.








EDUARDO TORROJA MIRET: works and publications Cálculo de los cajones de hormigón armado para aire comprimido, Madrid,1926; Botadura y fondeo de los cajones de cimentación del puente de San Telmo, Madrid, 1926; Acueducto Sifón sobre el río Guadalete, Madrid, 1927; L´emploi des cábles d´acier dans les constructions en béton armé, Congrés des Ponts et Charpentes, Vienna, 1929; Otra solución propuesta para el dique de Cadiz, Madrid, 1931; Los Pliegos de Condiciones para Obras de Hormigón Armado, Madrid, 1932; Los Viaductos de la Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, 1932; La nueva línea de tranvía de puerta de Hierro, Madrid, 1934; Las obras de fábrica para la urbanización de la Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, 1935; Modernas orientaciones en la determinación de la resistencia de las estructuras de hormigón, Madrid, 1935; Cubiertas Laminares de Hormigón Armado, Madrid, 1936; Obras de hormigón armado, Madrid, 1936; Sobre los errores de la medida de las deformaciones en el interior de los macizos por aplicación de la teoría de las cuerdas vibrantes, Madrid, 1936; Le voile mince du Frontón Recoletos à Madrid, Association Internationale des Ponts et Charpentes, Zurich, 1938; Estudio de un muro de contención formado por membranas en conoide, utilizable para muelles de atraque, Madrid, 1939; Estructura del Edificio para la Unión y el Fénix en Sevilla, Madrid, 1940; El problema general de la auscultación, Madrid, 1940; Estructura de la tribuna del nuevo Hipódromo de Madrid, Madrid, 1941; Orientaciones para el cálculo anelástico de piezas prismáticas de hormigón armado, Madrid, 1941; Un novo tipo di muro di sostengo e le sue possibilitá di calcolo, Ricerche d´Ingeneria, Rome, 1941; El cálculo de una lámina cilíndrica polilobular, Madrid, 1942; El comportamiento resistente de una cubierta laminar, Madrid, 1942; Viaducto Martín Gil, Madrid, 1942; Comprobación y comportamiento de una estructura laminar, Madrid,1942; Sulla struttura delle tribune del nuevo Hipódromo di Madrid, Ricerche d´ingeneria, Rome, 1942; La calefacción a distancia de la Ciudad Universitaria de Madrid, Madrid, 1943; Nueva Teoría anelástica del hormigón armado,  Madrid, 1943; Variantes modernas en las estructuras de puentes, Madrid, 1944; Discurso de ingreso en la Real Academia de Ciencias, Madrid, 1944; Estudio teórico y fotoelástico de emparrillados, Madrid, 1944; Las deformaciones del hormigón por efecto de las cargas, Madrid, 1945; Coeficientes de seguridad en la comprobación de secciones de hormigón armado, Madrid, 1945; Métodos heterodoxos para la comprobación de secciones de hormigón armado, Madrid, 1945; Ensayo de bases para una resistencia de materiales anelástica aplicable al hormigón armado, Madrid, 1945; Establecimiento de un nuevo método de cálculo inelástico de piezas de hormigón, Madrid, 1945; Lecciones elementales de elasticidad, Madrid, 1945; Objeto y clasificación general de las Normas de Ensayo del Laboratorio Central, Madrid, 1945; Dimensionamiento rápido y económico de secciones de hormigón armado, Madrid, 1945; Las estructuras mixtas y el puente de Tordera, Madrid, 1945; Cálculo anelástico de secciones de hormigón armado, Madrid, 1946;  Reglas y fórmulas prácticas para el dimensionamiento de secciones, Madrid, 1946; Sobre el comportamiento anelástico del hormigón armado en piezas prismáticas, Madrid, 1946; Cálculo rápido de arcos empotrados, Madrid, 1946; Dimensionamiento y comprobación rápidos de arcos empotrados para puentes, with F. G. Monje, Madrid, 1947; La cimentación de la Nueva Facultad de Medicina de  Valladolid, with Carlos Benito, Madrid, 1947; El puente de Luzancy, Madrid, 1947; Orientaciones para el cálculo anelástico de piezas prismáticas de hormigón armado, Madrid, 1947; Rapport sur les voiles minces construits en Espagne, III Congrés A.I.P.C., Liège, 1948; Note sur le coefficient de securite, III Congrés A.I.P.C., Liège, 1948; Alloz Aqueduct, Concrete and Construction Engineering, 1948; Fundamentos para el cálculo de estructuras lineales planas, Madrid, 1949; Determinación de esfuerzos en vigas simples y trianguldass, Madrid, 1949; Planning  and execution of structures of reinforced concrete in conjunction with Arc Welded Steel, Prize-winner in international competition, Gothenburg, 1949; Introducción al estudio de estructuras laminares. Cilindros, with J. Batanero, Madrid, 1949; Determinación de esfuerzos en vigas rectas, Madrid, 1949; Representación icnográfica de estructuras de hormigón armado normales en edificación, Madrid, 1949; Sobre el cálculo de estructuras endo-hiperestáticas, Madrid, 1949; Cubiertas laminares por cilindros, with J. Batanero, Madrid, 1950; Cálculo de esfuerzos en estructuras curvas, Madrid, 1951; El coeficiente de seguridad en distintas obras, with A. Paez, Madrid, 1951; Safety Factor Calculation, IV Congreso A.I.P.C., Cambridge, 1952; Le calcul en prérupture du betón armé précontraint, with A. Paez, IV Congreso A.I.P.C., Cambridge, 1952; Laboratorios, Madrid, 1953;  Laboratorio Central de Ensayos de Materiales de Construcción, Madrid, 1953; Il metodo dei gradi d´incastro per il calcolo dei telai piani multipli, Corso di perfezionamento per le costruzioni in cemento armato, 1953; Cálculo de esfuerzos en estructuras reticulares, Madrid, 1954; Set concrete and reinforced concrete, Amsterdam, 1954; Le nuove forme a guscio, Corso di perfezionamento per le costruzioni in cemento armato, 1954; Shalendacher in Eisenbeton, Schweiz. Tech. Zeitschrift, 1954; Wirtschaftliche Gestaltung von Staumauren durch Modellversuche, Beton und Stahlbau, 1955; Deformation processes and rheological patterns, Symposium su la plasticitá, Varenna, 1956; Notes on Structural Expresión, Art and Artist, University of California, 1956; Stands at Madrid Racecourse, Concrete and Constructional Engineering, 1956; Rapport général sur les questions spéciales relatives au béton armé et au béton précontraint, V Congrés A.I.P.C., Lisbon, 1956; Tendences actuelles dans le domaine de la construction et de l´architecture en béton armé, France, 1956; Le forme a guscio, Rome, 1957; Bridges and Aqueducts, California, 1957; Razón y Ser de los Tipos Estructurales, Madrid, 1957; New Developments in Shell Structures, II Symposium on Concrete Shell Roof Construction, Oslo, 1957; L´activite de I´Institut Espagnol de la Construction et du Ciment, 1957; Philosophy of Structures, Berkeley, 1958; The Structures of Eduardo Torroja, New York, 1958; The concrete shell roof in architecture. Its present problems and posibilities, 1958; Load factors, Concrete Institute, USA, 1958; Problems and possibilities of concrete shells, 1958; La cuba hiperbólica de Fedala, Madrid, 1958; Armaduras autopretensadas y pretensados sin armaduras, Madrid, 1959; Lámina plegada de la Universidad de Tarragona, Madrid, 1959; La evolución de las formas estructurales, en relación con sus materiales, a lo largo de la historia de la construcción, Madrid, 1960; Recomendaciones prácticas para el empleo de los distintos tipos de conglomerantes, with P. Garcia de Paredes and J.Nadal, Madrid,1961; Pliego de Condiciones de Hormigón armado de la estructura, Madrid, 1960; El método del momento tope para la flexión y la compresión simples o compuestas en hormigón armado, with A. Paez and J.M. Urcelay, Madrid, 1961; Instrucción H.A. 61 especial para estructuras de hormigón armado, primera parte, Madrid, 1961; Instrucción Eduardo Torroja H.A. 61 Especial para estructuras de hormigón armado, segunda  y tercera parte, Madrid, 1961; Las estructuras de Eduardo Torroja, (translated from the English), CEHOPU, Madrid, 1999.



Joedicke J., Les Structures en Voiles et Coques, Stuttgart, 1963; Hossdorf H., Modellstatik, Berlin, 1972; Cassinello Perez F., Hormigonería, Madrid, 1974; Chias Navarro P., La ciudad Universitaria de Madrid Génesis y realización, Madrid, 1986; Dieguez Patao S., La generación del 25 Primera Arquitectura Moderna de Madrid, Madrid, 1997; Le Moniteur, Centre Georges Pompidou, L´art de l´ingenieur, Paris, 1997; Fernandez Ordoñez, J.A. and Navarro Vera, J.R., Eduardo Torroja ingeniero, Madrid, 1999; Asociación de Miembros del Instituto Eduardo Torroja, Ministry of Internal Development, Eduardo Torroja. Su obra científica, Madrid, 1999; Cassinello M. J.  Razón científica de la Modernidad española, University of Navarre, Pamplona, 2000; Jordá, C., Torroja J. A., López Palanco R., Borcha B., Vidal V., Sosa P.M., Navarro Vera J.R., Soler Sanz J., Perepérez B., Cassinello P., Gonzalez Valle E., Calavera J., Rovira Soler J., De las Casas A., Eduardo Torroja – La vigencia de un legado, Valencia, Polytechnic University of Valencia, 2002; Eduardo Torroja Institute, Fundación Eduardo Torroja, AMIET, Eduardo Torroja. Obras y Proyectos, Madrid, 2005.


 María Josefa Cassinello Plaza



Note: text included in the Diccionario Biográfico Español (Spanish biographic dictionary). Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (2011)






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