While I was researching buildings for The Structure of Skyscrapers, I read a lot of nineteenth-century descriptions of buildings, both informal (in journals) and formal (in Department of Buildings records). Something I came across quite a bit was the word “irregular.” It was always used in the same way: to denote the back of a …

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Chaos From Order

About the time that Frank Gehry’s design for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was grabbing headlines, I started to hear about blob architecture. The gist of the discussion was that the development of 3-D architectural modeling tools had freed designers from the tyranny of regular -or worse, orthogonal – geometry, and the future would be blobby. …

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Taxonomy, Not

The distinctions between the different truss types used in bridges are clear and easy to define. That is not true for building frames and it seems to me that the reason why not is useful in contrasting bridge structural design with building structural design. I’m limiting the discussion below to steel framing, but it could …

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The National Park Service – in the form of the Historic American Engineering Record – was kind enough to create this illustrated guide to trusses. It’s incredibly handy to have around when you want to categorize an old bridge, but it occurs to me that it inadvertently says something about the way engineers design. First, …

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