Structures #1

In the midst of our Studio and Construction Systems work, our other classes continued ahead at full steam. In Structures 1, after having learned all about beams, columns, etc. and how to calculate their forces, we were tasked to construct a pedestrian bridge to scale. This bridge was to be loaded using a machine in the shop, to test its capacity. The structure also had to include a covering, but had to be open at the very center where the load would be placed.

I teamed up with classmates Jesse, Lauren, Erik, and Miguel for this project. We began with a simple arched design, with a flat path placed below rather than above the arch. Originally we had misunderstood the assignment and designed the bridge such that the load would be placed on the arch. Our hope was that the pedestrian walkway below would act as a tension member to hold the ends of the arch in place (as it had not material to brace against as it might in a building). We constructed the bridge out of laminated sheets of MDF, and this was ultimately our downfall.

First iteration of pedestrian bridge model for Structures 1. Constructed from laminated sheets of MDF.

First iteration of pedestrian bridge for Structures 1. Constructed from laminated sheets of MDF.

When tested, the bridge failed much earlier than we had hoped or anticipated – very quickly the laminated sheets sheared apart, as the glue was not able to hold them together under the stress of the load.

First iteration of pedestrian bridge model for Structures 1, being loaded for testing.

First iteration of pedestrian bridge for Structures 1, being loaded for testing.

Back to the drawing board for the second and final design, knowing this time that if we were to laminate the structure, we would need to provide some sort of cross-member to keep the material from shearing apart.

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Materials & Design (1) – An Introduction to Structures

Outside of our main studio/design class, all of the first years also took our first structure-related course, entitled “Materials and Design” – here we were introduced to not only basic structural systems such as the column and beam, but also to various materials. Most of our learning was through hands-on, exploratory work as opposed to straight research.

The first portion of the class, which lasted for about 4 weeks or so, tasked us with the creation of various structural systems that were required to hold a certain amount of weight, usually bricks, without breaking. For the majority of the tasks I was paired up with a fellow student and friend Jesse. Our process usually consisted of various sketches and incredulous head-scratching as we tried to figure out how we were supposed to support a multitude of bricks with such a small amount of material. Eventually we would build a design and test it, at which point it would inevitably fail catastrophically. We would examine the breaking points of the structure, and attempt to modify it to support more weight. This typically repeated a couple times until we had satisfied the weight requirements for the project (or were at a loss as to how to proceed). We would then bring our various designs to class to have them be tested there and allow the professor to comment on the design.

At the end of the project(s) we compiled all the designs into a small booklet, which I have included here.

final-document