Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

Completed in 1936 on the border between Nevada and Arizona, the Hoover Dam is the second-highest dam in the United States and the 18th highest in the world. It was a monumental accomplishment for its era which set new standards for feasibility studies, structural analysis, quality control during construction, and post-construction performance evaluations. Nowadays, the dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California.

Hoover Dam Technical Information

When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.

– Henry John Kaiser

Hoover Dam Photographs
Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

© ArchEyes

Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

© ArchEyes

Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

© ArchEyes

Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

© ArchEyes

Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

© ArchEyes

Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

© ArchEyes

Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

Satellite Image

The Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. It was built between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers which cost over one hundred lives. Originally known as the Boulder Dam, in 1933 it was officially renamed Hoover Dam, in honor of Herbert Hoover, the U.S. president during whose administration (1929–33) construction began on the dam.

Since 1900, the Black Canyon and the Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water, and produce hydroelectric power. As the technology of electric power transmission improved, Lower Colorado was considered for its hydroelectric-power potential. In 1928, Congress authorized the project. The winning bid to build the dam was submitted by a consortium called Six Companies, Inc., which began construction of the dam in early 1931.

Construction PhotographsHoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon KaufmannHoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

Hoover Dam is 726 feet (221 meters) high and 1,244 feet (379 meters) long at the crest. It contains 4,400,000 cubic yards (3,360,000 cubic metres) of concrete. Such a large concrete structure had never been built before, and some of the techniques were unproven. The torrid summer weather and lack of facilities near the site also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, Six Companies turned the dam over to the federal government on March 1, 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule.

One of the most important departures was the congressional mandate placed upon the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to employ an independent Colorado River Board to perform a detailed review of the agency’s design and issue recommendations that significantly affected the project’s eventual form and placement. Of its accord Reclamation also employed an independent board of consultants which convened twice yearly several years before and during the construction of the project, between 1928 and 1935. Reclamation also appointed a special board of consultants on mass concrete issues, which had never been previously convened. Many additional landmark studies were undertaken which shaped the future of the dam. Some of these are the employment of terrestrial photogrammetry to map the dam site and validate material quantities; in situ instrumentation of the dam’s concrete; and consensus surveys of all previous high dams to compare their physical, geologic, and hydrologic features with those proposed at Hoover Dam.

The project was also unique because the federal government provided all materials, except the concrete aggregate, to minimize construction claims and delays.

Architect Gordon V. Kaufmann, who designed the Los Angeles Times Building, simplified the Dam’s design with the flowing lines of Modernism and Art Deco. The four areas where his influence is most visible are the power plant, dam crest, spillway, and the four intake towers sticking up from the top of the Dam. The middle two are elevators, decorated with bas-relief panels. The five bas-reliefs on the Nevada elevator tower depict the multipurpose benefits of Hoover Dam – flood control, navigation, irrigation, water storage, and power.

Hoover Dam is a National Historic Landmark and was named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven wonders of Modern Civil Engineering Wonders, along with two other iconic Art Deco structures – the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge, which became the symbol for San Francisco and California.

Hoover Dam Plans

Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann Hoover Dam / Henry John Kaiser & Gordon Kaufmann

Hoover Dam Image Gallery
About Gordon Bernie Kaufmann

Gordon Bernie Kaufmann (19 March 1888 – 1 March 1949) was an English-born American architect mostly known for his work on the Hoover Dam. During Kaufmann’s early career, he did much work in the Mediterranean Revival Style, which had become popular at that time. Later in his career, Kaufmann worked primarily in the Art Deco style, with a personal emphasis on massively thick, streamlined concrete walls which gave his buildings a very distinctive appearance. Kaufmann’s buildings, as a result, took on a very “mechanical” appearance, often resembling huge versions of old-fashioned appliances. The Los Angeles Times’ headquarters is a perfect example of this.

Other works from Gordon Kaufmann