The Formwork

– The exhibition, Venezia @Ca’ Pesaro, Nov. 15, 2022 – Jan. 29, 2023 + Ca’ Tron, Nov. 15, 2022 – Feb. 15, 2023,

Building a Skyscraper: Schiller Building Adler & Sullivan


The purpose of the exhibition is to reconstruct the architectural organism conceived by Adler & Sullivan by investigating, through detailed drawings and digital information modeling (BIM), the constituent elements of the building: the metal structure, the brick and terracotta walls with their anchoring systems, the structure of the floors made of “tile arches” and the internal construction which is not only part of the elaborate decorative scheme, but also of the mechanical system (heating and cooling systems). The construction of the Schiller Building contributed significantly to the definition of a new architectural type: the American skyscraper, in its version developed in Chicago after the devastating fire of 1871. The metal structure used in the tower and in the main parts of the building presented pioneering solutions which constitute some of the first and most important examples of the application of steel in the construction of tall buildings. The metal structure consisted of box-shaped beams and columns formed by bolting together both steel sheets and profiles. The use of structural steel profiles was used only for the secondary structural elements (beams and joists).

An absence of archival evidence makes us wonder whether these members had been calculated following the then well known principles of graphic statics, taking into account the plastic behavior of the metal – an approach that allowed for the easy calculation of very complex systems as demonstrated by the best-known case – the Eiffel Tower. The patient work of reconstructing and redrawing the structure, the masonry and the decorative elements of the building which was carried out by a group of master’s degree students from the Università Iuav di Venezia and led by three instructors – Prof. Mario De Miranda (metal structure), Prof. Paolo Borin (BIM modeling) and Prof. Marco Pogacnik (historical research) – will be presented in this exhibition. The idea that animates the project is to question the linear conception of technical and structural innovation and to reveal the concrete and vivid presence of the building through an in-depth historical investigation. Large drawings will be exhibited to illustrate building sections and important details and to highlight the structural elements and the exterior envelope. Large 1:10 scale sections and a video, developed from the BIM model, will make it possible to explore the building again, utilizing digital precision to return to the actual material and chromatic qualities of the lost building. The exhibition intends to enhance and disseminate, thanks to the work of tomorrow’s designers, the study of the historic roots of modern metal construction, highlighting the ingenuity and audacity of yesterday’s designers.

With this approach in mind we hope that there will be an opportunity for a closer collaboration between the Università Iuav di Venezia, the Venetian museum system and the world of design and construction, which is made up of companies and designers whose presence in our territory is rich, prestigious and unique.

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15 November 2022 – 29 January 2023

Venezia, Ca’ Pesaro – Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, Santa Croce, 2076 Venezia

15 November 2022 – 15 February 2023

Ca’ Tron – Università Iuav di Venezia, Santa Croce, 1957 Venezia


Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia

Consiglio di Amministrazione:

Presidente: Mariacristina Gribaudi

Vicepresidente: Luigi Brugnaro

Consiglieri: Bruno Bernardi, Giulia Foscari Widmann Rezzonico, Lorenza Lain

Segretario Organizzativo: Mattia Agnetti

Dirigente Area Attività Museali: Chiara Squarcina


Ca’ Pesaro – Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna: Elisabetta Barisoni

con Matteo Piccolo, Cristiano Sant, Annalisa Tonicello