Published on 16 January 2008


(1891 - 1960)

André Coyne’s name remains linked with several prestigious large dams. His job at the harbour of Brest brought him into contact with Caquot and Freyssinet, the designer of the Plougastel bridge, whose construction was overseen by Coyne. This gave him the opportunity to try out a number of his own inventions, in particular a type of retaining wall in which the wall surface is anchored into the supported mass and the use of vibrating wires to monitor structures.

In 1928 he was appointed Chief Engineer in the planning department of the Upper Dordogne. Although he left his beloved Brittany coast with regret, this marked the start of a brilliant career constructing large dams.

The Marèges dam, which he built between 1930 and 1935, reinstated the arch dam technique in France and was the first trial of the ski-jump spillway, a technique which propells water at high speed to some distance from the base of the dam, thus protecting the foundations from streambed erosion.

Coyne also invented acoustic monitoring procedures and the technique of anchoring structures using pretensioned steel ties. Among his other arch dams in France are those at Saint-Etienne-Cantalès, l’Aigle, Bort-les-Orgues and Chastaing. Even more advanced are the multiple arch dams he built, for example at Grandval and Roselend in France, and the Kariba dam on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border. During his career worldwide he built about a hundred dams.

He came to be recognised as the undisputed expert in the field and was asked to give the lectures on large dams at the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées. He received national recognition in 1935 when he was appointed head of the Large Dam Engineering Department and international recognition in 1945 when he became President of the International Committee on Large Dams, a postition which he held until 1952. In addition, in 1953 he he was awarded the Grand Prix d’Architecture for his work designing and building large dams.

He retired from the Civil Service in 1947 to set up an engineering consultancy firm..

He died in 1960, after having been deeply affected by the breaking of the Malpasset Dam on 2 December 1959.