This is the second in my series celebrating structures whose completion anniversary falls this year.  I have just selected a few in each case, but I hope that this blog might engender some interest and debate. If anyone out there has insights or information about these or any other significant anniversary structures, then please do comment.

These examples were completed in 1907 – 110 years ago. This time I have selected just three buildings for which I have found some interesting information. Like the set from last month, these structures are all still standing and serving their original purpose. I will be looking at 100-year-old structures in March and finishing with 10-year-old structures when we get to December.  So watch this space and join in with your own examples if you wish!

1    Plaza Hotel, New York

The Plaza Hotel occupies a grand position overlooking Central Park on the corner of 5th Avenue and W59th Street.  It is one of those iconic buildings that is featured in many films (Crocodile Dundee, Home Alone 2 among others) and is famous as the place where the Beatles stayed on their first visit to the US in 1964.  President Donald Trump (yes, him) owned it for a time (he bought it for $408M in 1988), and the Institution's President (yes, me) was privileged to stay there for a night some years ago. 
   Plaza Hotel
(Photos public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

The building has a steel frame with a limestone façade, and was constructed by General Contractor George A Fuller & Co. between 1905 and 1907. The engineers were Purdy and Henderson. It stands 76m tall and its steel frame and ventilation system were considered to be state of the art at the time.

Back then it stood alone as a solitary building with space around it, but today it is dwarfed by the tall buildings that have grown up all around it. However, the view from Central Park is still clear and gives an idea of its former grandeur even now.

Here is a link to a bit of drone footage showing the hotel (with a very annoying sound track).

2    Ascension Cathedral, Almaty, Kasakhstan (also known as Zenkov Cathedral)

This extraordinary building was constructed between 1904 and 1907 and has a timber frame structure. The engineer was Andrei Pavolvich Zenkov (hence the alternative name for the building) and it is (at 56m) one of the tallest timber buildings in the world.  

I suspect that with modern technology, and in particular with developments in the use of cross-laminated timber, this record is unlikely to hold for long. Indeed, I have searched online for data on tall timber frame buildings without success, (I couldn't even find what is the tallest!) so I am hoping that someone out there reading this will respond with an authoritative record of the tallest timber frame structures in the world today.

Ascension Cathedral
(Photo: Stomac, Wikimedia Commons)

Following a heavy earthquake in 1887 almost all new buildings in Almaty were constructed in timber, since the earthquake had damaged almost all buildings made of stone. Notably, the cathedral survived a big earthquake in 1911 (some records quote 1910) when almost all other buildings around it collapsed.
Some say it was constructed without any nails, which is probably just a popular myth, with the beams connected with iron bolts to help, according to Zenkov, with seismic resistance by making it suitably flexible. Whatever the facts, the design is an early example of a building specifically engineered with seismic resistance in mind.

It was originally intended as a cathedral for the Russian Orthodox Church, but after the Russian Revolution it was used to house the Central State Museum of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (the soviets frowned on Christian worship).  It was restored in 1973-76, and happily, after the demise of the Soviet Union, the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1995, and reopened for religious services in 1997.  It is a popular tourist attraction in the city of Almaty.

This film showing the interior is worth a quick look.

3    Port of Liverpool Building (The Dock Office), Liverpool

This famous building is part of Liverpool's UNESCO-designated World Heritage Maritime Mercantile City and is an important part of the maritime history of the city.  Completed in 1907, it was the headquarters for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board for 87 years, and is one of Liverpool's '3 graces' which line the city's waterfront.

The building was designed by Sir Arnold Thornely and F.B. Hobbs and constructed by William Brown & Son of Manchester.  It has a reinforced concrete frame and is clad in Portland stone, with a façade noted for its ornamental detailing with many maritime references.  

Work began in 1904, with the first nine months of construction focusing on laying the building's foundations, which were dug to a depth of 30–40 feet below ground level.  It was completed in 1907 at a cost of approximately £250,000.

During the second world war it suffered serious damage due to a bomb and subsequent fire, but it was repaired with relatively little trouble, although at a cost significantly higher than the original construction cost.  In 2005, major internal and external works to fully restore the Grade II* listed building were started, and the £10m restoration project was fully completed in early 2009.

Port of Liverpool Building
(Photo: Tehjas Itraj, Wikimedia Commons)

Notably, the initial design did not include the large central dome which was added by the architects later in order to give the building a more imposing look. This decision, however, was not without controversy, as many board members believed that it should not be down to the Port Authority to "beautify the town". Nonetheless, it was added to the design, becoming the focal point of the building itself.

One notable interior feature is the grey granite grand staircase, which is lined with stained glass windows adorned with images of Poseidon, anchors, ships bells and shells and dedications to countries of the British Empire including Singapore, South Africa, Canada and Australia. 

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.
All of the pages on this website are the copyright © of The Institution of Structural Engineers.

The Institution of Structural Engineers, International HQ, 47-58 Bastwick Street, London, EC1V 3PS, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7235 4535 Fax: +44 (0)20 7235 4294
Registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales No. 233392 and in Scotland No. SC038263
Follow us on: Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Youtube The Structural Engineer Jobs