Jack Christiansen, the engineer who designed the Kingdome’s vast roof, has died

Jack Christiansen, the structural engineer of the Kingdome and a pioneer of thin-shell concrete roofs, died last month at 89.

Jack Christiansen of Bainbridge Island, structural engineer of the Kingdome and a pioneer of thin-shell concrete roofs, died in mid-August at the age of 89.

He also worked on the Pacific Science Center, the U.S. Pavilion at the 1974 World’s Fair in Spokane, the Yakima SunDome, Ingraham High School, walkway bridges at the University of Washington, and the truss-supported glass roof at the Museum of Flight.

His crowning feat was the Kingdome roof, at 660 feet in diameter the largest concrete dome in the world. Thousands of sports and concert fans admired his compression ring at the top, where forces converged from the dome’s 40 soaring concrete ribs.

“Visually apparent structural clarity has a universal appeal,” he once wrote. “In a building, this expresses itself in a natural and orderly flow of loads from the top of the building down through the building structure to the foundations.”

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That’s equally true of his Spokane landmark, except its tethered roofs pull downward, on a ring surrounding a central pillar.

Seattle’s gray dome was completed in 1976, a modern, multiuse palace like the Houston Astrodome, New Orleans Superdome and the Detroit-area Silverdome.

Though it didn’t have flexing seismic dampers like today’s Sodo stadiums, the Kingdome was robust due to its circular frame and thin roof. Those broad outdoor ramps to the 100, 200 and 300 levels actually doubled as braces for the vertical columns.

The Kingdome was leveled by demolition explosives in 2000 as crowds watched the dust from Beacon Hill and across Elliott Bay.

The premature implosion of the still-functional Kingdome saddened Mr. Christiansen, yet he put it behind him, friends say. He continued to advise fellow engineers, and completed projects including a bridge in Fairbanks, Alaska.

He was born in Chicago and met his wife, artist Sue Hasselquist, at the University of Illinois. He completed a master’s degree at Northwestern University, and the couple moved out west to Puget Sound in a black Ford with their first daughter, Janet Sue.

Structural concrete was still a young technology in 1955when he devised “the eggshell roof” for Evans Pool near Green Lake, says famed Seattle engineer Jon Magnusson, a former colleague. The surface was…

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