-- JackConte? - 06 Apr 2005


What are you hoping to get out of ME122F? ? -Like I said in class, my main interest in this class is the balance between art and function. Particularly, I'm interested in the translation of artistic vision into a technical plan of action. Eventually, I want to go into filmmaking, particularly cinematography. As a cinematographer, my job is to translate the directorís artistic vision into camera angles, shudder speeds, iris stops, white balancing, and so forth. The cinematographer is the bridge between art and technical implementation. So while this class doesnít particularly deal with filmmaking, it deals with the bridge that many artists have to cross.

What kinds of projects and art are you most interested in? -The sheer size of the dome is something that intrigues me. How did they do it? How did they build something so big? Iím not sure if the scale is proportional to the complexity of the design or just the time it takes to build, or both. But I canít imagine itís as simple as taking the time to simply scale up the model. Or is it? I don't know!


Assignment for April 12th

Prompt 2

My first response to the tower, after seeing it in person was, ďWow, why has it not already fallen.Ē And then to think that the current angle of lean was actually less than what it used to be is incredible.

IMPRECISION While seeing the tower in person was impressive, I learned more from watching the video before hand. For example, Iíve never studied engineering, but judging from the video, it seems to be much more problem solving oriented, and much more open-ended than I thought. The engineers didnít just do some calculations and come up with a solution: they debated, talked about different solutions, and finally decided on one based on necessity instead of assurance. They didnít know that it would work. In fact, one of the scientists said that he was nervous on the day of the soil extraction, as if the tower might collapse right in front of them! This insecurity, uncalculated risk, and high failure potential are all things that I never used to associate with mechanical engineering.

LURCHING Iím also interested in lurching. How can a building lurch and not fall entirely? Is there really that much give in the structure? When the tower lurches, do the marble blocks actually slide sideways with respect to each other? Or does the foundation bend? Or does the soil beneath one end simply compress slightly more? The mechanics of the lurch is interesting to me. Also, if I stack a pile of Jenga blocks a foot in the air and shake the table, the whole pile comes crashing down. If thereís any relative movement between the table and the stack, the blocks fall. The blocks donít really move and then stop. So how can something even bigger, like the leaning tower, lurch up to a 16th of an inch (as it did during one of the attempts to right it) and not fall?

PROBLEMS BEFORE COMPLETION Ė WHAT IS BRILLIANCE? In Brunalleschiís Dome, King mentions that the builders found a crack down the main surface of the building before they even built the first machine to lift the Dome materials into the air. And during the building of the tower in Pisa, the builders noticed the lean after adding the second level. Yet, in both cases, they continue building. This leads me to two interesting points. First: why would they continue working on a project that they know is doomed? Obviously, in the case of the Dome, they was so much invested, that to tear down the structure and start again would have been the wrong way to handle the situation. But the Tower at Pisa is not nearly as large as the Dome, and to invest such a huge amount of time and effort into a building that is ALREADY leaning seems senseless. Why did they do it? Second, after reading the first few chapters of Brunalleschiís Dome, Iím convinced that Brunalleschi was a genius. However, maybe we just think heís a genius because the Dome is still standing. If there were 1000 architects in history, and none of them were gifted at all, several of them are bound to get lucky and build a structure that holds. Right? For example, Brunalleschi didnít know that the wooden beams that he used to move stone laterally wouldnít break. He got lucky. He didnít know how much stress they can take, and King makes it clear that they had no way of determining these things besides trial and error. In such a system, the architects who are hailed as geniuses happened to get it right on the first time and thus went down in history as brilliant. That said, your average Joe couldnít build il Duomo, and we have to acknowledge Brunalleschi and the other architects for their creativity, ingenuity, and apparent brilliance. Nonetheless, some architects were bound to get lucky and build a proper structure: was it because they were brilliant? Or was it because they got lucky and happened to choose the right building strategy?

SINKING Can it be that the tower has sunk between 2.5 and 3 meters (http://torre.duomo.pisa.it/towersposters/english_version/)? Were the architects unaware of the soil composition and the related potential problems? Also, what were the long term plans according to the Pisans? Did they have a plan for sustainable architecture? Did they think about the future? Or did they just build without considering the fate of the tower 300 years down the line? Yet, the Pisans must have been aware of the soil composition, being among ďlagoon and marsh depositsĒ (Same website as above). Either they consciously failed to account for such a malleable terrain, or they didnít know it would affect the tower. In the end, it surprises me that they would continue to build in such strange conditions.

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