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Digital Collections

Jaroslav Joseph Polívka Collection

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This digital collection includes photographs, sketches, and letters by internationally renowned Czechoslovakian structural engineer and architect Dr. Jaroslav Joseph Polívka. 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.

The finding aid for the J.J. Polivka papers.