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British Industrial History

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Felix James Samuely

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Felix James Samuely (1902-1959) of Felix J. Samuely and Partners

c.1934 Appointed by J. L. Kier and Co to carry out the structural calculations for the spiral ramp of the penguin pool at the London Zoo (designed by Berthold Lubetkin).

Samuely subsequently joined J. L. Kier & Co. on a permanent basis.

1959 Obituary [1]

THE death occurred on January 22 of Felix James Samuely, B.Sc., M.I.C.E. Mr. Samuely was a consulting engineer specialising in structural design, and was one of the country's most original and creative engineers in the lighter structural field.

Mr. Samuely was born in Vienna in 1902 and studied in Berlin, where he obtained his degree of Dipl. Ing. He returned to Vienna to work in an architect's office for a year, and then worked in Berlin for some years.

He came to England in 1933, and worked with a firm of contractors for a short time, after which he started practice as a consulting engineer. Among contracts for which he acted as structural engineer are technical colleges, schools, blocks of fiats, offices, factories and hospitals in various parts of the United Kingdom.

His most recent buildings of special interest include the new United States Embassy in London, a church in Connecticut constructed entirely in pre-cast concrete, the British Pavilions at the 1958 Brussels Universal and International Exhibition, L.C.C. blocks of fiats of fourteen eighteen and twenty-five storeys, and the development of St. Thomas Hospital area.

Although the firm which bears his name has built up quite an extensive practice we think he will probably be even better known to many engineers from his contributions to the various learned societies, for he had the gift of expounding complicated ideas in a simple way. At the Institution of Structural Engineers centenary conference last October for instance, his paper on "Skin Structures" gave an admirable review of these complicated three-dtmensional structures, which are so characteristic of present-day trends. A part of this paper was, in fact, published in THE ENGINEER of October 17 last.

Mr. Samuely's own particular contribution to this trend was a considerable one, exploiting the "folded slab" principle, which was explained in his paper. A particularly graceful example of a steel structure utilising this principle was the Federation of British Industries pavilion at the Brussels exhibition. The three spires of the British Government's pavilion at Brussels, which were of timber, were also folded slabs. Both pavilions were, of course, to Mr. Samuely's designs. He was also active in the structural work for the Festival of Britain, being responsible for the "Skylon" and the Transport Pavilion.

Another novel structural development which he fostered by practical design, and by a paper at the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1952, was a form of pre-stressed concrete construction using both pre-cast and in situ techniques. Pre-stressing was concentrated into the pre-cast elements which, because of their expense, were kept to the minimum size, and the structure was completed by relatively economical in situ work. These examples do not by any means exhaust the inventiveness which he showed in design.

The class of work in which Mr. Samuely specialised brought him into close co-operation with many architects. He was sometimes quite outspoken in his criticisms of some architects' methods - we can recall a condemnation of "pilotis" - but was, nevertheless, popular amongst them, doubtless because he understood their problems, for the architectural expression of engineering structures was one of his special interests.

1959 Obituary [2]

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