The Structural Assessment of the Metal Roof Trusses in Brussels Model Schools (1860-1920)

Ine Wouters

Research Architectural Engineering (æ-LAB)

Phd Defended in 2010.

Although, from 1830 onwards state education was one of the priorities of the new Belgian monarchy, it was not until 1875 that the policy and philosophy went into the meltingpot: inspired by the movement of the Art Nouveau, the École Modèle – a new school building typology, taking into account aspects of health, safety and hygiene – was put forward by the Ligue de l’Enseingement and architect E. Hendrickx. Famous architects such as H. van de Velde, H. Jacobs, E. Quétin and V. Horta got the assignment to design public schools in every community of Brussels according to this model school, where the préau – a spacious central covered courtyard – organized the entire school life.

The prototype served as a guideline for over 55 schools in Brussels which were built between 1875 and 1920. Numerous metal roof trusses, varying from simple industrial Wiegmann-Polonceau trusses to richly decorated de Dion trusses, span the 9 to 15 m wide central hall.

This PhD research will focus on the structural assessment of the metallic roof trusses of these school buildings. The research will illustrate the role of the Brussels Model Schools within the Belgian educational system and give an overview of the metal roof typologies used to span the inner hall of these schools. It will deal with the mechanical properties and the production processes of the newly introduced iron and steel varieties at that time, investigate the building and construction technologies, estimate the overall safety level of these structures by several recalculations according to the Eurocodes and finally propose some rehabilitation options. This interdisciplinary research will allow to get a realistic idea about the possible problems and the complexity of the solutions, the load-bearing capacity and safety level, the feasibility of the proposed renovation, etc.

Michael De Bouw defended his PhD 'Brussels Model Schools (1860-1920). Structural assessment of the Metal Roof Trusses' in March 2010. Afterwards Michael was connected part-time as a post-doc researcher until December 2010