Perfect, Buried, and Wrong

I discussed inverted-arch foundations a while back and wanted to briefly return to the topic with this picture. That’s a beautiful example of an inverted arch, carrying the load from two piers in a church apse. The most important thing about it is that it has performed its job properly for over one hundred years. …

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Why Not? Why Not.

Every so often, someone will come forward with a truly audacious plan for something new in the world of construction. Often it’s an architect, often not; some of the plans are meant seriously and some are meant to start a conversation. Sometimes it’s hard to tell: was the plan to extend Manhattan into the harbor …

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Systems Thinking and Garbage

Continuing yesterday’s train of thought, I want to look at an example outside of structural engineering and the world of buildings, but still within the built environment. The example is the history of redesign of trash cans for the New York City streets. (I’m talking about public cans for incidental trash, not the cans used …

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Systems Thinking

People focus too much on materials or individual members in structure, and not enough on systems. You can’t understand modern structures – by which I mean ones that follow the cutting edge of thought since the 1880s – without thinking about them in terms of structural systems. The picture above shows the underside of a …

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A Classic Failure

At the APT conference last week, I was one of the judges in the Student Design-Build Competition run by the Preservation Engineering Technical Committee. The most important thing to say on that topic is that, as in previous years, I was greatly impressed by the effort, thought, and creativity that the students brought to the …

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