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“Bronze Horseman”
Georgiy Severinets, Elena Novitskaya

April 7, 2003
The work on the grandiose monument required finding a solution not only to creative but also to multiple engineering problems.

On August 7, 1782, a magnificent inauguration of the monument to Peter the First took place in the presence of a great concourse of people. In the thick of the multi-thousand crowd, a canvas fencing dropped unveiling to amazed spectators Peter ahorse riding impetuously out of an enormous stone with the imperiously extended spear-hand.
That momentous occasion was preceded by sixteen hard years during which the author of the sculpture Falconet and a great number of his helpers labored at the monument. The work on the grandiose monument required finding a solution not only to creative but also to multiple engineering problems. For the then level of technology many of those problems seemed unsolvable. But the savvy and talent of the French monumentalist and Russian master hands made possible brilliant solutions of those problems.

Problem one. Point of support.
According to the sculptor's design, Peter bestrides on a horse rising on its hind legs. This imaginative solution appeared in the first sketches to be but specified with time, the main idea remaining unchanged. With such a posture of the horse, the monument only has two points of support. Falconet stumbled at the monument's stability, but he was not going to reject that dynamically expressive image. A contradiction occurred: there must be a support to make the monument stable and there must not be a support so as not to spoil the sculptor's design. This contradiction was resolved in a very exquisite way: the third character a snake was introduced into the composition enriching the image by a multilayer allegory. The horse's tail touches slightly the snake. But via this seemingly accidental, slight touch, the load is transferred to the third point of support, to the place where the snake rests on the stone. The spectator does not notice that. The idea that the horse's “soft” tail might serve as a support does not even enter his head.


The second problem. Carrying the huge stone.
According to Falconet's design, a huge natural rock had to serve as the pedestal for mounted Peter. Its outline had to remind of a sea wave. It was necessary to find, mine and deliver a granite slab of a size that had never been used before in construction. After a long search, a suitable stone was found in Lachta, not far from St.Petersburg. The stone was grandiose. It weighed 1,600 tons, was 13.2 meters long, 6.6 meters wide and 8 meters high. Nine kilometers of land route and 13 kilometers of waterway separated it from the place of installation.
How to deliver such a heavy stone to the place of installation? Normally, huge cargo was put on logs and was dragged on them. But the stone was so heavy that it chafed the logs as if they were grains between millstones. They tried to make metal shafts, but the idea turned out ineffective. The shaft did not move in parallel, the ropes broke and the winches went out of order. What was to be done? Russian inventors solved that problem. Logs (cylinders) were replaced with balls. The cylinder touches the surface along a line therefore it is difficult to control while rolling. In contrast, the ball leans against a small contact spot and is easier to control because it is always ready to roll in a needed direction (this approach corresponds to the engineering system development trend “Geometrical evolution of surface”). The stone was transported with the aid of bronze balls rolling in copper-plated chutes, which in their turn were covered by second, upper chutes with the stone placed thereon. As the stone moved, the freed chutes were put again in front of it. Thus, the stone was continuously moving with the aid of ropes, winches and 400 workers.

The witty solution with balls in chutes made it possible to move the stone 400 m a day. Unfortunately, the road was not always straight. Sometimes there was a turn. Straight chutes were not suitable. Special bent chutes were made for this purpose, i.e. the chute shape was matched with the road shape.

The third problem. Working.
The transportation of the monolith to St. Petersburg took as many as three years the time during which one could travel around the world in the 18th century. And then it was necessary to hew the stone. According to Falconet's design, the stone's outlines had to be cardinally changed, which required much time. They were obviously behind the schedule. But the solution was found. There were always several hewers on the stone. They caught the trick of working under such extraordinary conditions under continuous motion of the surface being worked. This solution employed the principles, which were later on called “Principle of continuous useful action” and “Combining” in TRIZ. The huge stone was gradually turning into the pedestal of the monument.


The fourth problem. Loading.
To carry the stone by see, a special sea vessel was built. It was designed to withstand the stone's weight, all lifting work, peculiarities of the waterway and many other unique conditions. But first of all it was necessary to load the stone on the vessel that was waiting near the landing stage. Calculations showed that if the vessel were near the landing stage, the loading of the huge stone would cause the vessel to overturn. What was do be done? A paradoxical solution was proposed. For the vessel with the stone not to go down, it was proposed to sink it in advance! In TRIZ, this method is called the Equipotentiality principle (creating a situation when the deck surface and the landing stage surface are at the same level). The stone was loaded with the aid of the same chutes. Then water was pumped out and the vessel emerged.

Truly, they met with an unpleasant mishap. The vessel bent under strain so that only the bow and the stern emerged. The middle part remained under water. This happened because in defiance of the calculations, the stone was loaded across the vessel and not along it as was planned. But they coped with the problem, the vessel was sunk again and cross bars were installed so that the load was distributed over the entire hull of the vessel.
To provide stability, two sailing vessels were added to the vessel with the stone. Then the original flotilla got under way towards the capital, first on the Gulf of Finland and then along the Neva river through the city towards the place of installation. The stone was unloaded using the same technique but in reverse order.


The fifth problem. Casting.
Let us get back to the bronze sculpture itself. We have already mentioned the problem of the monument's stability. To finally prevent inglorious collapse of the sculpture, the sculptor proposed a technically complicated but quite justified casting method: making the bronze walls in the front part of the statue much thinner than in its rear part (this solution corresponds to the TRIZ principle of Local quality. Thus, the front part became lighter and the rear part, which had to withstand the main load, became more massive, the center of gravity was displaced down. Without doing this, the statue with only three points of support would not have acquired the required stability.

The sixth problem. The inscription.
The monument was erected and the inauguration date was approaching. A delicate problem arose. When initiating the creation of the monument, Empress Catherine wanted to immortalize the name of the reformer сsar. But she also wanted to glorify her own name. No wonder that she liked the inscription version proposed by Falconet himself. As distinct from the redundant texts by other authors, his text was laconic.

Empress Catherine made it even more laconic and took a decision that corresponded to her high rank. Catherine the Second was the heroine of the solemn inauguration of the monument to Peter the Great. When the shields went down, the following inscription rose to view of the spectators: Petro Prima Katarina Secunda (To Peter the First from Catherine the Second). This inscription made her equal to Peter the Great (in TRIZ it is called “Universality” or “Combining”). Empress was wise enough not to erect a monument to herself, but now she and Peter the Great have a common monument.
Thereby, using the monument to Peter the Great, Catherine the Second eternized her own name.

Dedicated to the tercentenary of St.Petersburg.
 

Materials:
Shikman, A.P. Characters of National History. Biographical Reference Book. Moscow, 1997.
Kaganovich, A. “The Bronze Horseman”, Monument Creation History. “Iskusstvo”, Leningrad, 1975
Images:
Kaganovich, A. “The Bronze Horseman”, Monument Creation History. “Iskusstvo”, Leningrad, 1975
 

 

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Authors: Nikolay Shpakovsky, Elena Novitskaya