Flickr: Skyscrapers

Ohhhh, pretty shiny things!

Mostly this Flickr group is definitive proof that no matter how garish the building, it will look cool as a 3-point perspective. I mean, check this out:

Photo by syd delicious. Thanks!

A pretty boring box made compelling and dramatic by perspective (though that column capital is sweet detailing). Which […]

Engineering Confessions

Spending most of my time around engineers, I forget that certain things aren’t common knowledge. For example, I recently had to explain that buildings are not designed to survive earthquakes. Rather, they are designed to not kill people during earthquakes, then afterwards we’ll knock em down and rebuild.

Engineers make this sound noble: “We’re in […]

Steel Work

“Old-timer, keeping up with the boys. Many structural workers are above middle-age. Empire State [Building]” Photograph by Lewis Hine, 1930 (check out more of his work at the National Archives).

I’ve been spending most of my work-time on the engineering for a 700-foot steel building, and so it’s neat to see all the small […]

Also: Those Big Buildings?

They have a lot of pieces. A lot. And no matter how standardized they look from the outside, each piece somehow ends up being just a little bit different. And the steel fabricator sends you drawings of each one, based on the more general drawings you had sent them. If you send hundreds, they send […]

I Am An Engineer

Picture from sam brown, explodingdog. Thanks!

WTC Steel

Warped, yielded steel from this issue of Engineering News, picture taken at the WTC. It somewhat illustrates what I was talking about below — the wide flange is bent and it look like some type of edge connection broke off, but the beam as a whole is still in one piece. Mostly, I just […]

Sunday Conspiracy Blogging

By linking to this Robert Fisk article about questioning the 9/11 explanations, LitBrit produced quite a bit of commenter angst over at the House that Klein Built. As an engineer, I find the discussions of 9/11 steel collapse fascinating, and at the risk of revealing ignorance within my own field I want to wade in […]

Remember to Tip Your Engineers

I finally glanced at this month’s Architectural Record, and was instantly giddy: A whole issue focusing on the intersection of engineering and architecture! It’s like they decided that since I finally payed them for my subscription, they’d write to my tastes for a month. The Engineer’s Moment essay traces the development of engineer-architect collaboration, and […]

Nerds Becoming Tools

I roll my eyes at skyscrapers, looking down (while looking up) at their ostentatious display. They are the MySpace of architecture; scandalous pursuits of the nouveau rich. Of course, I do have substantive objections (see this post), but mostly: they’re gaudy.

However, they have a deep appeal to my inner engineer. Building in extreme environments […]

Ultimate Phallus*

*Until they build Next Big Thing next year.

Above is the Burj Dubai, the biggest building in the world. I’m glad the profits of petroleum resource exploitation are being well spent. I mean, the tower’s obviously a bargain at $800 billion.

Of interest to me (if no one else), it appears to use a […]


Money quote from today’s New York Times article about the Minnesota bridge collapse:

“Bolts are better,” Mr. Peterson said, “but we wouldn’t consider anything wrong with rivets.”

Yeah, except for the rivets not being strong enough, there wasn’t anything wrong with them at all…

Strange thing though: the NTSB let everyone know that something may […]


I just found out that I passed the Engineer-in-Training Exam, which was an exhausting 8-hour test I took back in April, and am glad to not need to repeat. I still can’t believe it takes the licensing board 4 months to return results, but que sera.

Now I just have the Professional Engineer Exam (in […]

Shake Tables & Terrorism

Things you learn in engineering school:

All systems have a resonance frequency. If you push on them at the right interval, the amount they displace skyrockets. This is why soldiers break step when crossing a bridge. This is why certain frequencies of light cause our cells damage. This is why you push someone on a […]

Awesome Detail

This picture of the roof-beam-column (approximate terms; it’s hard to say what is what in non-rectalinear architecture) interface at the Savill Building in Windsor, England is pretty sweet. Nice contrast of steel and wood. The (presumably) cast joint is very clean.

It’s pretty stereotypically engineer-ish of me to be find elegant structural connections the most […]

Uh Oh

7 killed in Minneapolis bridge collapse

Some of my structural engineering colleagues are about to lose their jobs…unless it was the contractor’s fault. Of course, the first rule of structural engineering is: It’s always the contractor’s fault.