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Structure

Structure means an arrangement of objects. If your objects are musical notes and you organize them in some patterns, you will get a nice musical structure, that is a song.  If you arrange some toy bricks so that they can sustain a roof, you already designed an architectural structure.  You are an architect.

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What is an architect? you ask me.  I told you that language has a lot to do with building. In European languages, the word comes from ancient Greek: “arkhi “ means chief, “tekton” means builder. You’ll find these two words in other expressions, such as archbishop and tectonic plates.

There is no building without a structure, even if the structure is not obvious at the first sight, or it is so simple that you take it for granted. It stands because it stands. Nothing simply stands without falling, because the earth’s gravity fights against the upright position.

Gravity is what makes you fall and not float into the air. It is the force emanating from the center of our planet, which pulls everything down to earth, including our feet.

Is this a vertical pole? How come that it doesn’t fall? Easy peasy, you’d tell, just dig a hole and fix it into the ground. By carefully fixing the pole into the ground you invented a simple structure. Why carefully fix it? Because if you don’t thrust it deep enough, the pole falls down at the slightest breeze.  The part of the pole covered by earth sustains the pole. If you thrust it too much, your pole will be too short and of no use. If you thrust it too shallow, your pole will fall. You need to approximate what portion of the pole to cover so that your vertical pole is enough tall and enough robust. You do this by trial and error, but it is the same with a real structure. The part of the building covered by earth is called foundation. Many buildings collapsed until the people measured exactly the foundation.

Now add a piece of paper or rigid cloth on the top of the pole. You created a cover useful to shade chairs on a beach. This is a more advanced structure. Pay attention to the material you used for the cover. If it is too heavy, it makes the pole collapse. If it is too soft, it does not shade anymore. The material needs to be light and rigid. Hmmm….it seems that there is something more you add to the arrangement of the building structure: the building materials.

Try different shapes for the cover: a fan-like folded paper will make the structure more robust. Make the structure more robust by creating X shapes between sticks (either with a bit of yarn or more sticks). You’ve already found that some shapes are more rigid than others. And here you add more to the structure: the shape counts.

Do it yourself! Take a look at the drawings. You’ll be amazed what structures you can create. While building think at the foundation, building materials and shapes.

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