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How Do Shapes Affect Architecture?
The Great Pyramids are an example of triangles in architecture.
From the triangular Great Pyramids to the Roman arches and religious domes to the variety of
quadrilaterals found on steel-frame buildings of the 20th century, architecture is largely predicated
on shapes. The mathematical attributes of shapes are fundamental to the design of any standing
structure; you can't construct any building without an understanding of this.
The Romans first used arches around 273 B.C. Arches served as entrances for large,
outdoor public spaces. Today, arches are for porches, doorways and windows. The wedge shape of the
arch allows for more weight to be placed on top of it, thus it enables larger openings to the outside. The
interconnected wedges that form an arch relieve it of vertical pressure and give it lateral pressure,
allowing it to be one of the sturdiest shapes in architecture. Different styles of arches include Gothic,
Tudor and Moorish arches.
Circles in architecture are mostly found in domes. Domes are important structures in
architecture because they support themselves - they don't require pillars to stand them up. The
advantages of a dome include improved ventilation because of the heightened ceiling and a lack of
hindering structures within it, allowing for cool and warm air to flow much more easily than in other
kinds of buildings. Domes are considered environmentally friendly. Most sports arenas are domes.
Because of a triangle's relationship between intersecting angles and length, triangles may
be the most reliable shape in architecture. When you change the angle of a triangle, you change its
length as well. The triangle is a stable shape that is a great weight bearer because it's widest at its base.
Triangles are often used as internal support pieces.
Rectangles and parallelograms are the most used shapes in architecture, although
squares, rhombuses and trapezoids are in rare creative designs. While rectangles are weak and need
structural support, such shapes are generally more economical to construct. A golden rectangle is one
that has a proportional ratio of phi, which in mathematics means that the long side can be divided by
the smaller side and be equal to the whole length divided by the longer side. Golden rectangles are
prevalent in architecture, both in the interior structure and exterior, like windows, doors and
Triangles Used in Architecture
Triangles have a major role in architecture.
Geometry and architecture are two disciplines that are fundamentally linked. One of the most
recognized geometric shapes is the triangle. Triangles are identified by the three angles that are
linked through line segments to form a three-sided shape. The two most common triangular forms
used in architecture are equilateral and isosceles.
Triangles and Architecture: Features
Triangles are effective tools for architecture and are used in the design of buildings and
other structures as they provide strength and stability. When building materials are used to form a
triangle, the design has a heavy base and the pinnacle on the top is capable of handling weight because
of how the energy is distributed throughout the triangle. This is why many residential homes have Aframes; it provides a sturdy structure. The triangle's use in architecture dates back more years than
other common architecture shapes such as the dome, arch, cylinder, and even predates the wheel. The
most sturdy of the triangles are equilateral and isosceles; their symmetry aids in distributing weight.
Equilateral Triangle
The equilateral triangle is by far the most common triangle used in architecture. An
equilateral triangle features three congruent sides and angles measuring 60 degrees on each corner.
The lengths of the sides vary. A common example of equilateral triangles used in architecture is the
Pyramid Complex of Giza in Egypt. Each of the four triangular sides that form the pyramids are
equilateral triangles. These are examples of the strength of the triangle in architecture as the pyramids
have been standing for over 4,000 years.
Isosceles Triangle
Isosceles triangles, which have two equal sides, are also found in architecture throughout
the world, especially in modern pyramidal architecture. Isosceles triangles were used in the
architecture of the East Building in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The building was
designed by the famous architect I.M. Pei. His architectural style featured the use of isosceles triangles
and other geometric shapes. The East Building was plotted on an oddly shaped piece of land. Pei used
an isosceles triangle also as the base of the building to accommodate the shape of the plot. The Flatiron
Building in New York City is one of the world's groundbreaking skyscrapers. This building is built on a
triangular block in Manhattan, giving it a triangular shape, specifically, an isosceles. It has stood over
100 years, illustrating the strength of triangular architecture.
Scalene and Right Angle Triangles
A scalene triangle is one in which all sides are incongruent. Scalene triangles are not
commonly found in architecture. There is no symmetry in these triangles, causing an uneven
distribution in weight. This is hazardous as one angle will have more weight and pressure placed on it
than another. Right angle triangles have one angle that is a perfect 90 degrees. These special triangles
are not traditionally used in the structural characteristics of a building. They are, however, vital to the
construction and design of the building. Right triangles are used to create perfect corners and straight
lines. If the walls and corners of a building are crooked, the building also will be crooked.
Additional Information
Triangles are also used as adornments in architecture, not just in the foundational
design. In churches, triangular windows are often featured as window frames or in the stained glass,
possibly representing the Holy Trinity. The Hearst Tower in Manhattan uses triangular framing to add
extra support for the tower and to frame the all-glass window structure; both equilateral and isosceles
triangles are used.
The Power of Shapes in Business
Shapes are more than just figures - they can portray meanings, they can call forth
emotions, they can capture attention. Shapes are used by businesses, the government, charities, and the military to
convey meaning and influence people by using subtle, but effective, suggestion.
Are you paying attention to shapes in YOUR business? Here are some examples of uses of shapes and how YOU can
use them right now:
The idea of using shapes to convey meaning is not a new one. In fact it goes back to ancient Greece, to the time of Plato
and Pythagoras. The power of shapes was immediately implemented in religious and governmental architecture.
Today, businesses use the influence of shapes to attract customers and influence their buying decisions. YOU should
be doing the same.
Pyramid. The Pyramid is a symbol of energy, balance, and power. It is used by almost
all retail stores that display more than 3 products and it isn't by accident. It's an eyecatching shape and as you'll see later - it's used by more than just retail stores.
Try to implement a pyramid shape if you want to showcase a particular product or idea
against others. Even if you don't have products to sell - arrange your text to form a
pyramid and you can rest easy - the eyes will be drawn to it.
Circle. The circle represents community, wholeness, connectedness. We sit
"around" a dinner table - even if it's a rectangular one. This is an image of the
oval office. "Connectedness" and "community" are great ideas to portray
when you're the President meeting with representatives of so many different
cultures and groups of people.
You'll also see circular shapes in seals and even corporate logos - especially
energy-conscious corporations that want to convey the image of being
connected with the community and the earth. Remember this shape the next
time you want to great that "brotherhood", "family" feel in your message.
Oddity. Sometimes in order for a shape to get
noticed, it just needs to be different from what is
already there. You can easily take advantage of
this little tid-bit online or in places where there will be a repeating pattern.
In a sea of rectangular paragraphs, you can immediately attract the eyes by using
a drastically different shape... or really ANY other shape. Even if you just start a
LIST in the midst of a paragraph-fest, you'll give your readers' eyes a break and
hold their attention longer.
Rectangle | Square
Inside The Supreme Court of The United States of America.
You can bet that image was given more than just a passing thought for this institution's construction. A lot went into
its design but we can now quickly decipher it. The rectangle and square convey order, structure, logic, and security.
Great attributes for a court to have, right? Notice the entire red curtain is a rectangular backdrop. Look closely at the
judges' (rectangular) bench and you'll notice that there is actually a pyramid formed between it and the 2 end benches
which are slightly lower. Pyramid for power and balance?
Everyone is familiar with rectangles - but when you see how it can fit into the shapely scheme of things - you'll be able
to use it ON PURPOSE with more effect.
Pay attention to how you use shapes on your website, in your advertisements, and in your office. After all, if it's good
enough for world governments, multinational corporations, and global charities - and it has been used foricenturies it's probably a good idea to incorporate it into your business as well.
What shape is your business in? Shape up.