It Feels Backwards

Tension and compression members are both loaded axially and the formulas for determining stress and strain are identical. That doesn’t mean that designing them is the same. A tension member will fail in direct tension, by breaking or stretching so that it can no longer carry load. A short compression member is similar and will …

It Feels Backwards Read More »


Above, Notre Dame de Paris as seen by Childe Hassam in 1888. “An Architecture Student’s Project Made Notre Dame’s Restoration Possible” by Rain Noe touches on several issues in the philosophy of historic preservation. First, as suggested by the title, the fact that someone had measured the entire roof structure of the cathedral before its devastating fire, …

Re-creation Read More »

Very Old and a Zombie

The postcard above, put out by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1906, shows Sewall’s Bridge over the York River in Maine. It’s more of a causeway than a bridge proper, consisting of a series of short-span wood girders supported by wood piles driven into the river bed. But the structural form is not why anyone …

Very Old and a Zombie Read More »

Craft Versus Industry

I have often defined modern structure in buildings as industrialized structure. The obsolete materials and systems we work on – cast-iron columns, wrought-iron beams, weird forms of reinforced concrete from 1910, and so on – are all based on industrial production. (I did once run into an engineer who thought that “wrought-iron beams” meant that …

Craft Versus Industry Read More »

Scroll to Top