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Polivka, Jaroslav Joseph, 1886-1960


Biographical Note

Internationally renowned Czechoslovakian structural engineer and architect Dr. Jaroslav Joseph Polívka was born in Prague in 1886 and worked his way through school, earning his undergraduate degree in engineering from the College of Technology in Prague in 1909. He then pursued graduate study at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, Switzerland and the Prague Institute of Technology, where he earned a doctoral degree in 1917. After serving in World War I, he opened his own architectural and engineering company and began to develop his skills in stress analysis. He became an expert in photo-elastic stress analysis, a technique that examines small-scale transparent models in polarized light.

Polívka won international praise for his design of the Czech Pavilion at the Paris Exposition of 1937, a collaboration with Czech architect, Jaromír Krejcar. Two years later, he worked with Kamil Roscot to design another Czech Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Later that year, Polívka immigrated to the United States and took a position as research associate and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1941, he and colleague Victor di Suvero co-invented a structural design technique that received a patent for improvements in structures.

It was not until 1946 that Polívka began to work with Frank Lloyd Wright, but once they established a business partnership, the two men worked together on many projects until Wright’s death in 1959, with Polívka performing stress analyses and investigations of specific building materials. Although they collaborated on a total of seven projects, only two were actually built: the Johnson Research Tower, 1946-1951 and the Guggenheim Museum, 1946-1959. Jaroslav Joseph Polívka died in 1960 in Berkeley, California at age 74.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

J.J. Polivka papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0048

Papers of J.J. Polivka, internationally renowned Czechoslovakian structural engineer. Collection documents his collaboration with Frank Lloyd Wright on many of Wright's later projects including the Guggenheim Museum, and the proposed Butterfly Bridge. Collection consists of correspondence, clippings, drawings, publications, photographs and photograph negatives.

Dates: 1918-1983; Majority of material found within 1939-1959