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New York World’s Fair
Fu l l S c a l e Load Tes t i ng
Shortly after moving to new headquarters in Northbrook, Illinois, WJE was retained by the National Academy of Sciences to conduct full-scale load
tests on three buildings constructed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The buildings were only two years old but were scheduled for demolition,
making them ideal candidates for a study of building performance by load testing to failure.
The results of the tests led to an improved understanding of how buildings behave and ultimately fail, especially the vulnerability of concrete
buildings to failure in punching shear. At the time, the $280,000 project was the company’s largest ever. This successful project was heralded as
an innovative engineering feat and established WJE’s reputation as a leading investigative and testing firm.
Notes of Interest
• The Chimes Tower was subjected to dynamic excitation
using four vibrators that were the only type in existence
at the time. Jack Wiss took measurements of the natural
frequency of the tower for comparison with the calculated
value. The test had $150,000 worth of instrumentation
that recorded fifty channels of data.
• The Bourbon Street building was a steel structure
with open web floor joists. The floor system was tested
to failure using air pressure. The vacuum technique had
been used on model tests before, but this was the first
time the technique was used to load test a full-sized
building to failure.
• The Rathskeller building featured a reinforced concrete
floor slab that was tested to failure using hydraulic
rams reacting against soil anchors installed through the
basement floor. A total of 208 center-hole hydraulic rams
of 30-ton capacity were used for the tests. At the time,
the rams had to be specially made for the tests.
WJE 50 Years
The project that put WJE on the map – Jack Janney
This project established our reputation as the “engineer’s engineer.”–Gary Klein
Received wide recognition for its contribution to the knowledge of the
performance of full-scale structures – John Hanson