History of the Klokner institute
engineering at CTU in Prague, and one of the biggest
Knowledge and conviction that further developments in the cost-effective use of building materials and building structures were no longer possible without ongoing research and testing (and also checking) led Frantisek Klokner to develop a proposal to establish an institution for research and testing of building materials and building structures at CTU in Prague in 1912. Klokner was at that time forty years old, and was known as an outstanding professor. The proposal was presented to the academic council of the Technical University for consideration by the former Ministry of Culture and Education in Vienna. The proposal was warmly supported, mainly by Professor Velflik and Professor Solin, and then it was passed and submitted to Vienna. Due to reluctance of the Austro-Hungarian authorities, and because of the first world war (1914 – 1918), this proposal was not implemented until after the foundation of the new Czechoslovak Republic.
In 1919, a renewed proposal to establish a scientific and research institute was submitted to the Ministry of Education and National Enlightenment and, after an investigation, it was agreed that there was a need for an institute to develop Czechoslovak construction engineering and civil engineering education.
The question of an appropriate location for the new scientific and research institute was more problematic. The old engineering building at Charles Square in Prague was not adequate for normal education requirements, let alone finding space for a major scientific and research institute. The situation was resolved by erecting an unused wooden pavilion with a floor area of 41 x 12 m from the war refugee camp in Choceň, which was donated by the Ministry of National Defence and erected in the courtyard of the main Czech Technical University building. This building was shared with the Institute of Mechanical Engineering and with the Research and Testing Institute for Mechanical Testing of Metal and Structural Parts, so the space for the staff was cramped. The first experimental equipment was installed in the wooden pavilion in summer 1921, and in September 1921 the Institute of Building Materials and Building Structures opened. The unexpectedly rapid development of the Institute soon revealed the inadequacy of the wooden pavilion. New rooms were assigned to the Institute. The rooms were in the basement and on the ground floor of the main building of the Technical University. The cement, concrete and stone laboratories were located in these spaces, and then also the chemical, mechanical and joinery workroom. Despite the expensive radical interventions and reconstructions that were carried out twice, the pavilion almost fell down in 1933 because the structure full ofdry rot. Nonew place was available for the machinery, so a large hall was found where the experiment equipment was temporarily accommodated, and the other workplaces were removed to adjacent buildings of the Technical University. At that time, the new CTU buildings in Dejvice were already under construction.
Already in 1926, the Research and Testing Institute had put forward a proposal for a new separate building with space available for further development to meet the growing and varied requirements for research and development on building materials and structures, and with adequate working space on open courtyards. The suitability of this proposal was confirmed by the development of research on construction in the next 20 years, but the proposal was not accepted on the grounds that new spaces for the Scientific and Research Institute were earmarked in the new Technical University buildings.
Following this decision, the Institute began to cooperate with the designer of the new Technical University building son the general layout of the spaces and on detailed locations for the experimental machines and workplaces. In this way, one of the largest scientific and research institutes in Europe at that time was set up.
As a part of CTU, the Research and Experimental Institute of Building Materials and Building Structures had four tasks: education, teaching, science and experimentation.
The focus of the Institute was laid down in its negotiating rules: Research and testing in all branches of mechanical engineering and technical research on building structures and parts of structures, construction products and building materials.
The organizational structure of the Institute developed gradually with experience, and with the equipment of the Institute, the number of employees and the range of work that was undertaken. The range of skills as well as the number of employees gradually grew and deepened as the requirements of the construction industry developed.
Currently, the Klokner Institute carries out research not only in construction engineering but also in some fields of mechanical, chemical and power engineering. The focus is on science and research, which is closely linked with teaching students and supervising their projects. The Institute works in the specialized technical-commercial field of national and international standardization. In most of its activities, the Institute holds an exclusive and irreplaceable position at CTU in Prague and in the Czech Republicas a whole.
The Institute has four specialized departments, an accredited laboratory and, since 1986, a workplace for expert witnesses in the field of civil engineering for diagnoses, failure analyses, tests on concrete, steel, wood and masonry structures and on structural elements.
The results achieved in recent times demonstrate that the Institute has a privileged position in the whole Czech Republic and in the world, especially in the following fields: theory of construction framework reliability, diagnosis, monitoring and assessment of structures, mechanics of composite materials, development and verification of new concrete technologies and new building materials, degradation of reinforced concrete and masonry structures due to external environmental impacts and ways of rehabilitating these structures, design of modern structures, seismic and wind engineering.
The mechanical testing rooms of the Institute contains a range of testing equipment that can be connected with a measuring centre or a portable computer. The Institute has invested funds in unique equipment to enable the staff to carry out scientific and research for Czech and international clients.
The Klokner Institute also works on developing its international cooperation in research and standardization. The Institute is a leading workplace for the Czech Republic’s participation in many international institutions, and it is also a participant in a number of other institutions.
The Institute elaborates expert reports for clients in the Czech Republic and also abroad. More than 500 assessments and expert opinions are issued by the KI’s staff annually. Some notable assignments: mechanical tests on ceramic, glass and plastic insulators (for NGK Japan, IAC Malaysia, PCI Austria, France and Slovakia), tests on elements and parts of a special decorative grille for the Louis Vuitton building in Paris (for Sparal), mechanical tests on elements cut out of Spirol concrete panels (for Goldbeck Prefabeton Germany), tests on concrete pipes with diameter DN 600 – 800 mm (for EUROBETON Meba, Austria), passportization (inspection) of buildings impacted by the construction of a a new underground railway line.
The Klokner Institute measured the vibrations of turbogenerator foundations at the heating plant in Kralupy nad Vlatavou, made measurements of the vibrations of desulphurization absorbers at the power plant in Dětmarovice, and made measurements of the foundations of a smokestack at the power plant in Vřesová and on the lands of Motol hospital in Prague.
The Institute also carried out technical surveys on diplomatic buildings in the USA and Japan, on cooling towers and on smokestacks at ČEZ heating plants and state reserve assets, bunker buildings in Vřesová, barracks in Slaný, the emergency sludge digestion tanks of sewage plants in Prague – Troja, underground stations (Florenc, Vltavská etc.) The Institut ealso performs static load tests on road and railway bridges (for Metrostav a. s., SSŽ a. s., SMP Construciton a. s., Skanska a. s., Bogl a Krýsl k. s.).
The Klokner Institute has attached itself to construction engineering and the construction industry, and it wants to continue to be universally useful. Within the Czech Technical University, it wants to pass on its experience and the results of its scientific investigations to younger generations of construction engineers, who will, in turn, transfer it into the construction industry. The Klokner Institute educates doctoral students in two study programmes: Theory of Non-metallic Materials and Building Materials, and Theory of Structures.
Founder of the Scientific-Research and Experimental Institute of Materials and Building Structures
FRANTISEK KLOKNER 10.11.1872 – 8.1.1960
The Scientific-Research and Experimental Institute of Materials and Building Structures was renamed the Klokner Institute on Frantisek Klokner’s 75th birthday, as a permanent reminder of the extraordinary and distinguished efforts of the man who set up and was the first head of the Institute. For the staff of the Institute, his name will always be an inspiration to emulate the untiring investigator, the careful manager, the hard worker and the outstanding personality.
Academician Frantisek Klokner was born on November 10th, 1872 in the Prague district of Kariín, as the son of a blacksmith. After his elementary schooling, he went to grammar school in Karlin in 1885, where he gained a school leaving certificate with excellent grades in 1892. Then he studied at the University of Construction and Agricultural Engineering. In 1896 he passed his final examinations in agricultural engineering and in 1898 he also completed his study programme in construction engineering. In both cases, he passed with excellent results. During his studies he had to make his own living, because his father had died early.
From 1897 he worked as an assistant of his great teacher, Prof. Solin. Klokner deputized for Solin when he was unwell, standing in for his lectures on strength, elasticity and stereotomy. His proposal for standards for the statics and for the construction of masonry factory smokestacks arises from that time. At the same time, he was also working as a construction engineer at the Franta & Jires bridge plant, engaged on the installation and performance of steel structures. Later he worked on national and international steel structure projects as a construction engineer in the Prague bridge plant of the first Bohemian-Moravian factory in Prague. He did not limit himself to straigh forward design proposals. After gaining a great deal of practical experience from his practical work with steel structures, Klokner took up a career as a teacher that continued until his death.
From 1902 he worked as a professor at the State Technical School in Pilsen. In 1908, he moved to the civil engineering section of the Technical University in Prague. After a very short probation period, he was appointed an extraordinary professor of reinforced concrete and steel civil engineering structures. He also read lectures on Construction Statics (with Professor Bazant), Concrete Hydraulic Structures, and also Statics of Civil Engineering Structures, at the University of Architecture.
In 1917 he was appointed regular professor of reinforced concrete and steel structures in civil engineering. He continued in this post untilhe was forced to take retirement in 1939 due to the political events during the Occupation. As a teacher, he was the first professor in the Czechoslovak Republic to read lectures on Concrete Structures.
He published many articles and papers with the latest finds in construction engineering. While he was at the university he educated several thousands of engineers.
Some of them followed in his footsteps at various universities, and others had distinguished careers in construction companies here and abroad. His helping hand was everywhere in the construction industry, with new structures, with poorly designed structures, and with structures under threat from various effects.
He never turned anyone away who came asking for advice, and he always followed and showed full understanding for the work done by his former students. With his active proposals, he was the creator of a number of basic standards in concrete construction and steel structures, and he made civil engineerng design into aprofession with more reliable performance, quality control and cost controls.
During his work at the faculty of civil engineering, he was twice elected dean, and from 1928 to 1929 he was rector of the Czech Technical University. He headed the Institute from its establishment in 1921 until 1939, when he was forced to retire. However, he continued to keep a close eye on the Institute, and to influence its further development. Doc. Ing. Dr. Bedrich Hacar followed him as head of the Institute. However, Klokner continued to participate in expanding the Institute with his experience and his ideas. To mark his 75th birthday, Klokner was nominated for the award of an honorary doctorate in technical sciences.
In 1952, he was fully engaged in establishing the Academy of Sciences of the Czechoslovak Republic. In 1953, he was appointed an academician for his meritorious services. At the Academy,he set upa scientific and technical society, and he helped to organize the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czechoslavak Republic.
He also founded other distinguished institutions, such as Ceska matice technicka (Czech Technical Matrix), the Masaryk Academy of Work, the Czechoslovak Union for Research and Testing of Technically Important Materials and Structures, and the Concrete Society. For his work and services, he was awarded the Medal of the Republic by the president of Czechoslovakia in 1959.
Academician František Klokner died on January 8th,1960, while he was still at work, as he was until the last moments of his rich and fertile life.