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Pirelli Cable Factory, Maillart building, possible site of
Carrer de la Masia del Notari, Vilanova i la Geltru, Spain
Pirelli Cable Factory, Maillart building, possible site of
associated engineer
Robert Maillart
Maillart & Cie
date  1901 - 1902, 1914
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  TX117452
photo  copyright ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv
Swiss engineer Robert Maillart constructed a new building for the Pirelli Cable Factory at Vilanova i la Geltru, south-west of Barcelona, using his patented beamless reinforced concrete slab method. A modern factory complex can be found in Carrer de la Masia del Notari but there is now no trace of Maillart’s building, nor an exact site known.
The Pirelli Company was founded in 1872 in Milan, by Giovanni Battista Pirelli (1848-1932) to manufacture rubber products and insulated electric cables. Pirelli production centres and subsidiaries soon opened in other countries, and an extensive export business became established.
However, around 1900 the Spanish government decided to increase customs duties on some imported products, including the electrical conductors used in Pirelli cables. Pirelli decided to circumvent the charges by building the company's own factory in 1901-2, at Vilanova i la Geltrú, 40km south-west of Barcelona.
The factory produced electrical conductors and power and telephone cables, employing 200 men on a site of 1.4 hectares. Power was provided by two condensing steam engines of total output kW. Alternators transformed the power into three-phase current, which was distributed to the motors driving machinery in different parts of the plant.
In 1914, Robert Maillart (1972-1940), designed and constructed a reinforced concrete factory building for Pirelli at Vilanueva i la Geltru — presumably to augment the existing facilities. From the surviving images of the building’s interior, we know it must have had at least two storeys.
The lower level (or levels) had square-section columns with hyperbolically curved enlarged square capitals supporting a beamless flat slab ceiling. The external walls were pierced by arched windows and doorways.
The top floor had a roof consisting of a series of pitches 9m wide with clerestory windows at the high end. The roof was supported by square-section columns at 9m centres and inclined rafters linked by beams, trusses and horizontal ties between columns. Again, there were arched windows in the external walls.
As to the building's location, it is also possible that the original factory was sited on the street now known as Rambla Joan Baptista Pirelli, which is close to the town's harbour. No trace of the building is now visible at either location.
The present cable production complex is located in the industrial area north of the town. In June 2005, Pirelli sold its cable business to Goldman Sachs and the new company was renamed Prysmian Telecom Cables.
Contractor: Maillart & Cie
Research: ECPK
"Robert Maillart: Builder, Designer, and Artist" by David P. Billington, Cambridge University Press, 1997
"Robert Maillart's bridges: the art of engineering" by David P. Billington, University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1979
"Robert Maillart: Bridges and Constructions" by Max Bill, translated by W.P.M.K. Clay, Pall Mall Press, 3rd revised edition, November 1969
"India Rubber World", The India Rubber Publishing Co., New York, 1st June 1903

Pirelli Cable Factory, Maillart building, possible site of