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Copyright: Frauberger, S. 101

John Scott Russel: the designer of the rotunda

The engineer John Scott Russel was born in Scotland in 1808 and was already a well-known expert for resolving apparently unsolvable problems long before the Vienna World Exposition. He was brought to public attention primarily by the construction of the then largest steam ship in the world, the "Great Eastern" and the transplanting of the "Crystal Palace" from the London World Exposition site of 1851 across the metropolis to Sydenham. After studying mathematics and mechanics, Russel became Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Edinburgh at the tender age of 26. In addition to his theoretical research, he was also continuously engaged in putting ideas into practice - which resulted in the construction of numerous models for steam ships and traction engines. Russel eventually took control of the Caird Shipyard in Glasgow and his inventions pioneered modern shipbuilding. The Commissioner General of the Vienna World Exposition, Freiherr Schwarz-Senborn, considered Russel the perfect engineer to develop an unusual attraction for this major event. The plan he finally produced exceeded all previous accomplishments in his field. Russel's design for the Rotunda created the largest domed building in the world.

Director-General of the World Exposition: Dr. Wilhelm Freiherr von Schwarz-Senborn

Born in Vienna in 1816, Schwarz-Senborn initially studied applied chemistry and furthered the promotion of industrial technology. As secretary of the Lower Austrian Business Association, he played a decisive role in promoting economic reform and eventually became secretary of the Ministry of Trade. From 1860 onwards he repeatedly represented Austria at international exhibitions. His personal commitment to the Austrian economy and the experience he gained as Austria's Exhibition Commissioner endowed Schwarz-Senborn with the qualifications required to advise the Kaiser on economic and foreign policy matters between 1860 and 1866. After the 1862 London World Exposition, Schwarz-Senborn became director of the commercial office at the Austrian Embassy in Paris. On 9 January 1871, Schwarz-Senborn was officially appointed Director General of the World Exposition at the request of the government and the Kaiser. He agreed to the request on condition that he be given a completely free hand with respect to the exposition concept, and returned to Vienna in May 1871 to carry out the task. Schwarz-Senborn opened his Vienna office on the Ringstraße on 1 August 1871. He soon earned a great deal of criticism during the preparations for the exposition because of his apparently strong willed and chaotic style of leadership. Moreover, the government accused him of favouring foreign exhibitors - in particular the French - to the disadvantage of Austrian companies. Lavishly praised at the start as an exposition expert, Schwarz-Senborn's reputation declined dramatically and he was subsequently made responsible for the cost overrun and the financial failure of the exposition. After the World Exposition he was sent to Washington in 1874 where he spent a few years as the Austrian ambassador. Even after his return to Vienna, he was unable to fulfil his original wish of becoming mayor and completing the development of the city. His glittering career came to a premature end with the disaster of the Vienna World Exposition.

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The Vienna World Exposition 1873
John Scott Russel and Dr. Wilhelm Freiherr von Schwarz-Senborn
Year: 1873City: ViennaCountry: Austria
Duration: 1st may - 31st october 1873



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