Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sapporo Dome

The Sapporo Dome is a stadium located in Toyohira-ku, Sapporo, Japan, and is primarily used for baseball and football. It is the home field of the baseball team Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the football club Consadole Sapporo.

Hitsujigaoka, where Sapporo Dome is located, is a 40 minute car ride from New Chitose Airport. In Hitsujigaoka stands the statue of Doctor Clark, whose words "Boys, be ambitious!" still influence the people of Hokkaido today. The 31 hectare "Garden of Sports", which has no equal in the world, is located on a beautiful hill surrounded by rich Hokkaido greenery. Sapporo Dome is nicknamed "HIROBA",meaning an open space. In this all-weather supersized dome, many exciting events are held in front of over 40,000 spectators. There is no rain or snow here. There are only dreams. Sapporo Dome,as a new base of sports and entertainment in Hokkaido, and a new tourist spot in Sapporo, will fill the mind of visitors with excitement.

The Dome hosted the opening ceremonies to the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships on February 22 and hosted the closing ceremonies of the championships on March 4. It also made history as being the first venue where both indoor and nighttime skiing events took place for the first time on a world championship or Winter Olympic Games level with competitions in the cross country skiing sprints (men's and women's individual, and men's and women's team) and the cross country portion of the 7.5 km sprint event in the nordic combined. In order to generate snow, the stadium used its turf conversion hovering system to facilitate the snow making process for the skiing competitions. The opening ceremony featured Maki Ohguro, a local artist from Sapporo, Japanese drum demonstrations and other performances paying tributes to local customs and traditions. For the championships, seating capacity was reduced to 30,000.

Photo by Sasakei

The Dome was used at the 2008 Rally Japan for a super special stage. The Dome is interesting in that it switches between two entirely different surfaces. Baseball games are played on an artificial turf field, while football games are held on a grass pitch that slides into and out of the stadium as needed. Some other stadiums that feature sliding pitches include the Gelredome in the Netherlands, Veltins-Arena in Germany and University of Phoenix Stadium in the United States; however, unlike these three facilities, the Sapporo Dome has a fixed roof.

Conversion from baseball to football begins with the storage of the baseball field's artificial turf. Once finished, a set of lower bowl bleachers rotate from an angled position for baseball to a parallel position. A set of main bowl seats on one end of the dome then retracts, and the football pitch is slid into the stadium. The lower bowl is then rotated 90 degrees. Conversion from football to baseball occurs in reverse.

Photo by teikan

Facility Overview

Structure & floors:
Reinforced concrete, steel flame, steel frame ferroconcrete; 4 floors above ground and 2 below ground

Fixed shell-shaped roof; Size: longest part: 245m; shortest part: 227m; surface area: 53,000m2

Soccer: Mobile natural turf soccer field (Hovering Soccer Stage): 85m in width x 120 m in length
Baseball: Artificial turf; 100m for each wing and 122m for the center

Single slope stands (cone-shaped, one-layer type); no. of fixed seats: 41,484; capacity: 53,796

Full-color, large monitor, LED style (7m x 25m); Sub-scoreboard: LED style (2.5m x 13m)

Total construction cost:
42.2 billion yen

Height: 68 m (from arena surface)
Area: compound area: 305,230m2 ;construction area: 55,168m2 ;total floor area:98,226.21m2; arena area: closed arena: 14,460m2 open arena: 18,800m2
Cubic capacity:1.58 million m3 (closed arena)

Outside facilities:
Parking: 1,351 ordinary vehicles (advance payment for events);bus terminal: 48 berths; taxi stand: 48 taxis; bicycle parking: 206 bicycle and 112 motorcycles
Soccer training ground: 2 fields (including one field with artificial turf)

Facilities for people with disabilities:
Wheelchair seating capacity: 117; toilets: 25 (including 2toilets for ostomates); parking: 50 vehicles; elevators: 11; voice guidance system: 2 locations; Braille blocks.

Photo by Tim Kelf


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House must be one of the most recognisable images of the modern world - up there with the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building - and one of the most photographed. Not only is it recognisable, it has come to represent 'Australia'. Although only having been open since 1973, it is as representative of Australia as the pyramids are of Egypt and the Colosseum of Rome.

The Opera House is situated on Bennelong Point, which reaches out into the harbour. The skyline of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the blue water of the harbour and the Sydney Opera House, viewed from a ferry or from the air, is dramatic and unforgettable. Ironic, perhaps, that this Australian icon - the Opera House with a roof evocative of a ship at full sail - was designed by renowned Danish architect - Jorn Utzon.

In the late 1950s the New South Wales (NSW) Government established an appeal fund to finance the construction of the Sydney Opera House, and conducted a competition for its design.

Utzon's design was chosen. The irony was that his design was, arguably, beyond the capabilities of engineering of the time. Utzon spent a couple of years reworking the design and it was 1961 before he had solved the problem of how to build the distinguishing feature - the 'sails' of the roof.

The venture experienced cost blow-outs and there were occasions when the NSW Government was tempted to call a halt. In 1966 the situation - with arguments about cost and the interior design, and the Government withholding progress payments - reached crisis point and Jorn Utzon resigned from the project. The building was eventually completed by others in 1973. After more than 30 years, the Sydney Opera House has its first interior designed by Utzon. The Utzon Room, a transformed reception hall that brings to life Jorn Utzon's original vision for his masterpiece, was officially opened on September 16 2004.

Inaugurated in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is a great architectural work of the 20th century that brings together multiple strands of creativity and innovation in both architectural form and structural design. A great urban sculpture set in a remarkable waterscape, at the tip of a peninsula projecting into Sydney Harbour, the building has had an enduring influence on architecture. The Sydney Opera House comprises three groups of interlocking vaulted ‘shells’ which roof two main performance halls and a restaurant. These shell-structures are set upon a vast platform and are surrounded by terrace areas that function as pedestrian concourses. In 1957, when the project of the Sydney Opera House was awarded by an international jury to Danish architect Jørn Utzon, it marked a radically new approach to construction.

Photo by Pierre Lesage

The Sydney Opera House constitutes a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Its significance is based on its unparalleled design and construction; its exceptional engineering achievements and technological innovation and its position as a world-famous icon of architecture. It is a daring and visionary experiment that has had an enduring influence on the emergent architecture of the late 20th century. Utzon's original design concept and his unique approach to building gave impetus to a collective creativity of architects, engineers and builders. Ove Arup's engineering achievements helped make Utzon's vision a reality. The design represents an extraordinary interpretation and response to the setting in Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Opera House is also of outstanding universal value for its achievements in structural engineering and building technology. The building is a great artistic monument and an icon, accessible to society at large.

The Sydney Opera House is an expressionist modern design, with a series of large precast concrete 'shells', each taken from a hemisphere of the same radius, forming the roofs of the structure, set on a monumental podium. The building covers 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres) of land, and is 183 metres (605 ft) long and about 120 metres (388 ft) wide at its widest point. It is supported on 588 concrete piers sunk up to 25 metres below sea level. Its power supply is equivalent for a town of 25,000 people. The power is distributed by 645 kilometres of electrical cable.

The roofs of the House are covered in a subtle chevron pattern with 1,056,006 glossy white and matte cream Swedish-made tiles, though from a distance the tiles look only white. Despite their self-cleaning nature, they are still subject to periodic maintenance and replacement.

The Concert Hall is contained within the western group of shells, the Opera Theatre within the eastern group. The scale of the shells is chosen to reflect the internal height requirements, rising from the low entrance spaces, over the seating areas and up to the high stage towers. The minor venues (Drama Theatre, Playhouse, and The Studio) are located beneath the Concert Hall, as part of the western shell group. A much smaller group of shells set to one side of the Monumental Steps houses the Bennelong Restaurant. Although the roof structures of the Sydney Opera House are commonly referred to as shells (as they are in this article), they are in fact not shells in a strictly structural sense, but are instead precast concrete panels supported by precast concrete ribs.

The shells of the competition entry were originally of undefined geometry, but early in the design process the "shells" were perceived as a series of parabolas supported by precast concrete ribs. However, engineers Ove Arup and partners were unable to find an acceptable solution to constructing them. The formwork for using in-situ concrete would have been prohibitively expensive, but because there was no repetition in any of the roof forms the construction of precast concrete for each individual section would possibly be even more expensive.

From 1957 to 1963 the design team went through at least twelve iterations of the form of the shells trying to find an economically acceptable form (including schemes with parabolas, circular ribs and ellipsoids) before a workable solution was completed. The design work on the shells involved one of the earliest uses of computers in structural analysis in order to understand the complex forces the shells would be subject to. In mid-1961 the design team found a solution to the problem: the shells all being created as sections from a sphere.

With whom exactly this solution originated has been the subject of some controversy. It was originally credited to Utzon. Ove Arup's letter to Ashworth, a member of the Sydney Opera House Executive Committee, states: "Utzon came up with an idea of making all the shells of uniform curvature throughout in both directions." Peter Jones, the author of Ove Arup's biography, states that "the architect and his supporters alike claimed to recall the precise eureka moment ...; the engineers and some of their associates, with equal conviction, recall discussion in both central London and at Ove's house".

He goes on to claim that "the existing evidence shows that Arup's canvassed several possibilities for the geometry of the shells, from parabolas to ellipsoids and spheres." Yuzo Mikami, a member of the design team, presents an opposite view in his book on the project, Utzon's Sphere. It is unlikely that the truth will ever be categorically known, but there is a clear consensus that the design team worked very well indeed for the first part of the project and Utzon, Arup, and Ronald Jenkins (partner of Ove Arup and Partners responsible for the Opera House project) all played a very significant part in the design development.

The shells were constructed by Hornibrook Group Pty Ltd, who were also responsible for construction in Stage III. Hornibrook manufactured the 2400 precast ribs and 4000 roof panels in an on-site factory, and also developed the construction processes. The achievement of this solution avoided the need for expensive formwork construction by allowing the use of precast units (it also allowed the roof tiles to be prefabricated in sheets on the ground, instead of being stuck on individually at height). Ove Arup and Partners' site engineer supervised the construction of the shells which used an innovative adjustable steel trussed 'erection arch' to support the different roofs before completion. On 6 April 1962 it was estimated that the Opera House would be completed between August 1964 and March 1965. By the end of 1965, the estimated finish for stage II was July 1967.

Sydney Opera House facts and figures
The Sydney Opera house:

* Was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon
* Was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20 October 1973
* Presented, as its first performance, The Australian Opera's production of War and Peace by Prokofiev
* Cost $AU 102,000,000 to build
* Conducts 3000 events each year
* Provides guided tours to 200,000 people each year
* Has an annual audience of 2 million for its performances
* Includes 1000 rooms
* Is 185 metres long and 120 metres wide
* Has 2194 pre-cast concrete sections as its roof
* Has roof sections weighing up to 15 tons
* Has roof sections held together by 350 km of tensioned steel cable
* Has over 1 million tiles on the roof
* Uses 6225 square metres of glass and 645 kilometres of electric cable


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Tower of Pisa

The Tower of Pisa (La Torre di Pisa) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. The height of the tower is 55.86 m (183.27 ft) from the ground on the lowest side and 56.70 m (186.02 ft) on the highest side. The width of the walls at the base is 4.09 m (13.42 ft) and at the top 2.48 m (8.14 ft). Its weight is estimated at 14,500 metric tons (16,000 short tons). The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase. The tower leans at an angle of 3.97 degrees. This means that the top of the tower is 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from where it would stand if the tower were perfectly vertical.

The Tower of Pisa was a work of art, performed in three stages over a period of about 177 years. Construction of the first floor of the white marble campanile began on August 9, 1173, a period of military success and prosperity. This first floor is surrounded by pillars with classical capitals, leaning against blind arches.

The construction begun in 1173 and it must have been suspended at the completion of the third ring, around ten years later, since a subsidence of the soil of between 30 and 40 cm. had thrown the tower out of the perpendicular, causing an initial overhang of circa 5 cm. More than a century after the laying of the foundation stone, was once again begun (1275) by Giovanni di Simone, who added three more levels, correcting the axis of the Campanile. In 1284 the six stories of loggias were to all effects finished, bringing the height of the building to 48 m., and employing a technical expedient that was meant to diminish, at least optically, the effects of the inclination, accomplished by raising the galleries of the upper floors on that side.

At the time the inclination of the Tower was more than 90 cm. The tormented vicissitudes of the Tower did not, as one might expect, greatly worry those who were involved in the construction and completion. The long intervals between building activity were dictated, most likely, by the need of letting the Campanile 'rest', but above all by letting both the foundations and the ground on which they rested settle down.

In a certain sense it can be said that the subsidence of the soil and the consequent inclination had, on the whole, been foreseen. At the beginning of the 14th century the bells were placed at the sixth level, in the large opening still visible in the marble cylinder beyond the loggia. Between 1350 and 1372 Tommaso di Andrea Pisano (according to Vasari) terminated the installation of the belfry on the summit of the sixth order of loggias, increasing the correction of the axis, and thus diminishing the load on the side that was in inclination, which in the mean while had become fixed at 1.43 m.

Photo by leonceeo

Conceived of not only as a bell tower, but also as a belvedere for the square below - from the earliest times the loggias have served as 'grandstand' for religious events and fairs - it rises 58.36 m above the level of the foundation, just under 56 m over the level of the countryside, and its inclination, measured at the base, is over 4 m. The average subsidence of the base is 2.25 m, while the progressio of the overhang, despite all attempts so far made to bring it to a halt, is about 1.2 mm per year.

Only a few years after the completion of Tower, damage to the elevation structure became manifest, upon which the most damaged elements in stone were substituted. The first documentation of restorations involving substitutions dates from 1398, when marbles were acquired for this purpose. After this, restoration work carried on uninterruptedly, including some very extensive operations: in the XVI century alone the substitution of 50 columns is documented.

Photo by fever hat

The elements originally realised with San Giuliano marble were progressively replaced using white Carrara marble. The most significant data regards the most exposed parts: of a total of 269 column shafts 175 are in white Carrara marble, while out of 207 capitals, 195 have been substituted. Metallic supports (rings, brackets, chains etc.), some applied many centuries ago, are visible in numerous areas of the Tower.

At the beginning of the XX century chains were applied to the vaults of the arcades. Here the substitution of the stone architraves connecting the arcade columns to the drum is also frequent. Recent studies on the interaction between the atmosphere and the Tower have demonstrated that the columns and capitals are subject to the greatest damage as a result of cycles of heating and cooling caused by their dimensional structure and by their direct exposure to the sun.

In the sector underneath the inclination of the Tower, diffused instances of crushed or compressed areas can be noted through attention to cracks and fissures and the detachment of materials along their line of contact with borders. The numerous restorations attempted over time, with the numerous substitutions they involved, does not allow us to trace the evolution of the ruined areas nor to localise the areas with a greater concentration of lesions by way of reference to the stone wall facing.

The mechanical damage caused by such factors is accompanied by the deterioration of the stone, which provokes modifications to the volume of the various architectural elements, causing the detachment of parts sometimes of significant dimensions. Major damage to the surfaces of the Tower can be related to the impact of rainfall, while the area under the inclination is subject to greater particle deposits, which, being screened from the rainfall by the Tower itself, are not washed away.

In 1911 the first measurements of the tower with instruments and methods capable of accurately following the course of the Tower's inclination began. The inclination measured in 1911 was 5ƒ14'46", corresponding to a projection of 4.22m from the seventh cornice to the first. The first surveys were based on the measurement of the angle "q" between the first cornice and the seventh, using a theodolite placed at a precise point. Later (1928), four benchmarks were placed on the base of the Tower, from the levels of which the value of the inclination could be deduced. In 1934 a pendulum was introduced within the hollow cylinder and a highly accurate spirit level was placed in the instrument room at the 1st order.

Finally, in 1992, an electronic monitoring station was installed, with automatically recording inclinometers which allow the real time transmission at the frequency intervals required (even every 4 minutes if necessary) of the values north-south and east-west of the inclination. With the help of instruments it is also possible to distinguish the movement of the base upon which the tower rests through analysis of deformations in the upper structure, in order to identify the effects of single causes, potentially of brief duration, such as winds and seismic activity. The diagram below shows the inclination of the Tower over time, reconstructed according to measurements taken in the XX century. This confirms the great sensitivity of the Tower to any variation in the ground conditions and to works undertaken at the base. Leaving to one side variations caused by specific occurrences, the rotation speed of the Tower has accelerated from 4" per year in the 1930s to 6" per year at the end of the 1980s.

In 1993 a counterweight of about 600 tonnes, made from lead ingots, was placed on the north side of the Towers' base in order to arrest the southward rotation. The diagram shows the rotation towards the north of about 60" and the later stabilisation of the monument, recorded for the first time in over eight centuries of the Tower's history. A contained perturbation was recorded in September 1995: the unforeseen effect of the link between the Tower and the basin formed by cropped steel tubes installed in 1935 to facilitate the waterproofing of the base. The renewed tendency to rotate towards the south was checked and halted by augmenting the counterweight from 600 tonnes to about 870 tonnes.


The Parthenon

The Parthenon is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena, built in the 5th century BC on the Athenian Acropolis. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered to be the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered one of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of ancient Greece and of Athenian democracy, and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments.

At the approximate position where the Parthenon was built later, the Athenians began the construction of a building that was burned by the Persians while it was still under construction in 480 BCE. It was presumably dedicated to Athena, and after its destruction much of its ruins were utilized in the building of the fortifications at the north end of the Acropolis. Not much is known about this temple, and whether or not it was still under construction when it was destroyed has been disputed. Its massive foundations were made of limestone, and the columns were made of Pentelic marble, a material that was utilized for the first time. The classicalParthenon was constructed between 447-432 BCE to be the focus of the Acropolis building complex. The architects were Iktinos and Kallikrates (Vitruvius also names Karpion as an architect) and it was dedicated to the goddess Athena Pallas or Parthenos (virgin). The temple’s main function was to shelter the monumental statue of Athena that was made by Pheidias out of gold and ivory. The temple and the chryselephantine statue were dedicated in 438, although work on the sculptures of its pediment continued until completion in 432 BCE.

The Parthenon construction cost the Athenian treasury 469 silver talents. While it is almost impossible to create a modern equivalent for this amount of money, it might be useful to look at some facts. One talent was the cost to build one trireme, the most advanced warship of the era.

According to Kagan, Athens at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war had 200 triremes in service, while the annual gross income of the city of Athens at the time of Perikles was 1000 talents, with another 6000 in reserve at its treasury.

The Parthenon is a temple of the Doric order with eight columns at the façade, and seventeen columns at the flanks, conforming to the established ratio of 9:4. This ratio governed the vertical and horizontal proportions of the temple as well as many other relationships of the building like the spacing between the columns and their height.

The cella was unusually large to accommodate the oversized statue of Athena, confining the front and back porch to a much smaller than usual size. A line of six Doric columns supported the front and back porch, while a colonnade of 23 smaller Doric columns surrounded the statue in a two-storied arrangement. The placement of columns behind the statue was an unusual development since in previous Doric temples they only appeared on the flanks, but the greater width and length of the Parthenon allowed for a dramatic backdrop of double decked columns instead of a wall.

The back room sheltered Athena’s treasure and four columns of the Ionic order supported its roof. The introduction of elements of the Ionic order in a predominately Doric temple was more dramatic in the development of a continuous freeze on the exterior wall of the cella. While the integration of Doric and Ionic elements on the same temple was not a new development in Greek architecture, it was rare, and bestowed on the Parthenon a delicate balance between austere and delicate visual characteristics.

All temples in Greece were designed to be seen only from the outside. The viewers never entered a temple and could only glimpse the interior statues through the open doors. The Parthenon was conceived in a way that the aesthetic elements allow for a smooth transition between the exterior and the interior that housed the chryselephantine statue of Athena. A visitor to the Acropolis who entered from the Propylaia would be confronted by the majestic proportion of the Parthenon in three quarters view, with full view of the west pediment and the north colonnade. As the viewer moved closer, the details of the sculpted metopes would become decipherable, and when in proximity to the base of the columns, parts of the frieze would become evident in tantalizing colorful glimpses peering from the spaces between the columns.

Moving towards the east and looking up towards the exterior of the cella, a visitor would be mesmerized with the masterful depiction of the Panathenaic procession as it appeared in cinematic fashion on the frieze which was visually interrupted by the Doric columns of the exterior. This was certainly a scene that every Athenian could relate to through personal experience, making thus the transition between earth and the divine a smooth one. A visitor moving east would eventually turn the corner to face the entrance of the Parthenon, and there he would be confronted with the birth of Athena high above on the east pediment, and just beyond it, the arrephores folding the peplos among the Olympian gods and the heroes of the frieze. Then, just below, the “peplos” scene, through the immense open doors, any visitor would be enchanted by the glistening gold and ivory hues of the monumental statue of Athena standing at the back of the dim cella. The statue of Athena Pallas reflected its immense stature on the tranquil surface of the water-pool floor, and was framed by yet more Doric columns, this time smaller, in a double-decked arrangement that made the interior space seem as if it were even larger and taller than the exterior.

It seems certain that the master planners of the Parthenon conceived it as a theatrical event. The temple was constructed with the movements of the viewer in mind, and by the arrangement of the temple, the monumental sculptures of the pediment, and the detailed frieze, the emotions of the visitors were choreographed to prepare them for the ultimate glimpse of the majestic Athena Parthenos at the interior of the naos, and to maximize the effect of an awe inspiring visit.

As a post and lintel temple, the Parthenon presents no engineering breakthrough in building construction. However its stylistic conventions have become the paradigm of Classical architecture, and its style has influenced architecture for many centuries after it was built.

Photo by oboulko

The Parthenon is a large temple, but it is by no means the largest one in Greece. Its aesthetic appeal emanates from the refinement of many established norms of Greek architecture, and from the quality of its sculptural decoration. The Parthenon epitomizes all the ideals of Greek thought during the apogee of the Classical era through artistic means. The idealism of the Greek way of living, the attention to detail, as well as the understanding of a mathematically explained harmony in the natural world, were concepts that in every Athenian’s eyes set them apart from the barbarians. These ideals are represented in the perfect proportions of the building, in its intricate architectural elements, and in the anthropomorphic statues that adorned it.

Some of these details were found in other Greek temples while some were unique to the Parthenon. The temple owes its refined appeal to the subtle details that were built into the architectural elements to accommodate practical needs or to enhance the building’s visual appeal.

The fact that there are no absolute straight lines on the Parthenon bestows a subtle organic character to an obvious geometric structure. The columns of the peristyle taper on a slight arc as they reach the top of the building giving the impression that they are swollen from entasis (tension) - as if they were burdened by the weight of the roof; a subtle feature that allots anthropomorphic metaphors to other wise inanimate objects.

Photo by Jeff Mindel

The peristyle columns are over ten meters tall, and incline slightly towards the center of the building at the top (about 7 cm), while the platform upon which they rest bows on a gentle arc which brings the corners about 12 cm closer to the ground that the middle.

The architects of the Parthenon appear to be excellent scholars of visual illusion, an attribute undoubtedly sharpened by years of architectural refinement and observation of the natural world. They designed the columns that appear at the corners of the temple to be 1/40th (about 6 cm) larger in diameter than all the other columns, while they made the space around them smaller than the rest of the columns by about 25 cm. The reason for this slight adaptation of the corner columns is due to the fact that they are set against the bright sky, which would make them appear a little thinner and a little further apart than the columns set against the darker background of the building wall. The increase in size and decrease of space thus compensates for the illusion that the bright background would normally cause.

These subtle features set the Parthenon apart from all other Greek temples because the overall effect is a departure from the static Doric structures of the past, towards a more dynamic form of architectural expression. Moreover, the intricate refinements of the forms required unprecedented precision that would be challenging to achieve even in our time. But it was not mere grandeur through subtlety that the Athenians desired. It is evident that they sought to out-shine all other temples of the time through the lavish sculptural decoration of the Parthenon, and its imposing dimensions. The doors that lead to the cella were abundantly decorated with relief sculptures of gorgons, lion heads and other bronze relief ornaments.

The Athenian citizens were proud of their cultural identity, and conscious of the historical magnitude of their ideas. They believed that they were civilized among barbarians, and that their cultural and political achievements were bound to alter the history of all civilized people. The catalyst for all their accomplishments was the development of a system of governance the likes of which the world had never seen: Democracy.

Democracy, arguably the epitome of the Athenian way of thinking, was at center stage while the Parthenon was built. This was a direct democracy where every citizen had a voice in the common issues through the Assembly that met on the Pnyx hill next to the Acropolis forty times per year to decide on all matters of policy, domestic or foreign.

The fact that common people are depicted as individuals for the first time at the Parthenon frieze was owed to the fact that for the first time in history every citizen of a city was recognized as a significant entity and a considerable moving force in the polis and the observable universe.

Parthenon Facts

* Year Built: 447-432 BCE
* Precise Dimensions:
o Width East: 30.875 m
o Width West: 30.8835 m
o Length North: 69.5151 m
o Lenght South: 69.5115 m
* Width to Ratio: 9:4
o Width to height Ratio (without the Pediments): 9:4
* Number of stones used to built the Parthenon: Approximated at 13400 stones.
* Architects: Iktinos and Kallikrates
* Parthenon Cost: 469 talents
* Coordinates (of Plaka area just below the Acropolis): 37° 58'N, 23° 43'E


Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. It is named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland. The difference in the levels of the two canals at the wheel is 24 metres (79 ft).

Photo by nonmipare

The original concept of a wheel to act as a boat lift actually dates back to 19th Century Europe, but it was first seriously considered by British Waterways as a solution for Falkirk in 1994. Dundee Architects, Nicoll Russell Studios presented a Ferris Wheel type design that was used to secure Millennium Commission Funding for the Project. This outline design was then reappraised to create a functional lift that could raise and lower boats swiftly whilst celebrating the reconnection of the two historic canals with a structure worthy of a new millennium.Ideas and concepts were numerous, and varied from rolling eggs to tilting tanks, giant see-saw to overhead monorails and included some complex counterbalanced structures. The final outcome was The Falkirk Wheel, which successfully combines both function and design, creating a stunning piece of working sculpture.

The unique shape of the structure is claimed to have been inspired by various sources, both manmade and natural, such as a Celtic double headed spear, a vast turning propeller of a Clydebank built ship, the ribcage of a whale or the spine of a fish. The canal network as a ‘backbone’ connecting Scotland, east to west seems appropriate and there a true beauty in the repetitive sweeping shapes of the aqueduct. The arches over the aqueduct also add to the drama of the structure, forming a complete circle with the reflection in the canal to extend the feeling of the tunnel. The fact the canal literally ends in mid air creates a thrilling sense of sailing off the edge in to the spectacular scenery of the horizon.

The various parts of The Falkirk Wheel were actually constructed and assembled, like one giant Meccano set, at Butterley Engineering’s Steelworks in Derbyshire. A team there carefully assembled the 1,200 tonnes of steel, painstakingly fitting the pieces together to an accuracy of just 10 mm to ensure a perfect final fit.In the summer of 2001, the structure was then dismantled and transported on 35 lorry loads to Falkirk, before all being bolted back together again on the ground, and finally lifted by crane in five large sections into position. The total 600 tonne weight of the water and boat filled gondolas imposes immense and constantly changing stresses on the structure as it turns around the central spine. Normal welded joints of steel would be susceptible to fatigue induced by these stresses, so to make the structure more robust, the steel sections were bolted together. Over 15,000 bolts were matched with 45,000 bolt holes, and each bolt was hand tightened.

The wheel, which has an overall diameter of 35 metres (110 ft), consists of two opposing arms which extend 15 metres beyond the central axle, and which take the shape of a Celtic-inspired, double-headed axe. Two sets of these axe-shaped arms are attached about 25 metres (82 ft) apart to a 3.5 metres (11 ft) diameter axle. Two diametrically opposed water-filled caissons, each with a capacity of 80,000 imperial gallons (360,000 l, 96,000 US gal), are fitted between the ends of the arms.

These caissons always weigh the same whether or not they are carrying their combined capacity of 600 tonnes (590 LT, 660 ST) of floating canal barges as, according to Archimedes' principle, floating objects displace their own weight in water, so when the boat enters, the amount of water leaving the caisson weighs exactly the same as the boat. This keeps the wheel balanced and so, despite its enormous mass, it rotates through 180° in five and a half minutes while using very little power. It takes just 22.5 kilowatts (30.2 hp) to power the electric motors, which consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours (5.4 MJ) of energy in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.

Photo by Diamanx

The wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and is regarded as an engineering landmark for Scotland. The United Kingdom has one other boat lift: the Anderton boat lift in Cheshire. The Falkirk Wheel is an improvement on the Anderton boat lift and makes use of the same original principle: two balanced tanks, one going up and the other going down, however, the rotational mechanism is entirely unique to the Falkirk Wheel. Since 2007 the Falkirk Wheel has featured on the obverse of the new series of £50 notes issued by the Bank of Scotland. The series of notes commemorates Scottish engineering achivements with illustrations of bridges in Scotland such as the Glenfinnan Viaduct and the Forth Rail Bridge.

The Falkirk Wheel lies at the end of a reinforced concrete aqueduct that connects, via the Roughcastle tunnel and a double staircase lock, to the Union Canal. Boats entering the Wheel’s upper gondola are lowered, along with the water that they float in, to the basin below. At the same time, an equal weight rises up, lifted in the other gondola. This works on the Archimedes principle of displacement. That is, the mass of the boat sailing into the gondola will displace an exactly proportional volume of water so that the final combination of ‘boat plus water’ balances the original total mass.

Each gondola runs on small wheels that fit into a single curved rail fixed on the inner edge of the opening on each arm. In theory, this should be sufficient to ensure that they always remain horizontal, but any friction or sudden movement could cause the gondola to stick or tilt. To ensure that this could never happen and that the water and boats always remain perfectly level throughout the whole cycle, a series of linked cogs acts as a back up.

Hidden at each end, behind the arm nearest the aqueduct, are two 8m diameter cogs to which one end of each gondola is attached. A third, exactly equivalent sized cog is in the centre, attached to the main fixed upright. Two smaller cogs are fitted in the spaces between, with each cog having teeth that fit into the adjacent cog and push against each other, turning around the one fixed central one. The two gondolas, being attached to the outer cogs, will therefore turn at precisely the same speed, but in the opposite direction to the Wheel.

Given the precise balancing of the gondolas and this simple but clever system of cogs, a very small amount of energy is actually then required to turn the Wheel. In fact, it is a group of ten hydraulic motors located within the central spine that provide the small amount, just 1.5kw, of electricity to turn it.

The Falkirk Wheel cost £17.5 million, and the restoration project as a whole cost £84.5 million (of which £32 million came from National Lottery funds).

Photo by WestLothian


Friday, December 26, 2008

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle, royal palace in the Bavarian Alps of Germany, the most famous of three royal palaces built for Louis II of Bavaria, sometimes referred to as Mad King Ludwig, who grew up nearby at Hohenschwangau Castle.

Construction on the castle began in 1869, but given the exact tastes of King Ludwig II, progress was very slow going. As an example, it took 14 carpenters four and a half years just to complete the woodwork in Ludwig's bedroom. The King was an immense devotee of Richard Wagner, even going as far as naming the castle after a character in one of Wagner's operas--the Swan Knight. In none of the other castles in Germany will you find more instances of Ludwig's fondness for Wagner's work. Tapestries depicting scenes from Wagner's opera can be found inside.

Photo by jeffwilcox

Construction was halted on the castle and King Ludwig II was removed by power due to intrigue within his own cabinet. The King himself was rarely concerned with matters of state and was sometimes thought to suffer from hallucinations. However, what frightened the cabinet were the rumors of their possible removal. Under Bavarian law, a King could be removed from power if he were found unfit to rule. The cabinet produced this report and deposed of the King. However, Ludwig's mysterious death--ruled a suicide at the time--suggests that the cabinet was not content to merely remove him from power. This bit of mystery makes the atmosphere of Neuschwanstein one of the most intriguing of the castles in Germany.

Unfortunately, many of the rooms in the enchanting castle remained bare. Only 14 rooms were finished before Ludwig's death. Yet the beauty of this famous German castle cannot be denied. The sun reflects magnificently off the pearly walls of Neuschwanstein. Inside, the throne room is the picture of opulence. Intricate frescos of angels and other Christian depictions can be found. There is no throne, only a raised dais at the end of the room, as the King was removed from power before a throne could be built.

The suite of rooms within the Palas contains the Throne Room, Ludwig's suite, the Singers' Hall, and the Grotto. Throughout, the design pays homage to the German legends of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight. Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig spent much of his youth, had decorations of these sagas. These themes were taken up in the operas of Richard Wagner. Many rooms bear a border depicting the various operas written by Wagner, including a theater permanently featuring the set of one such play. Many of the interior rooms remain undecorated, with only 14 rooms finished before Ludwig's death. With the palace under construction at the King's death, one of the major features of the palace remained unbuilt. A massive keep was planned for the middle of the upper courtyard but was never built, at the decision of the King's family. The foundation for the keep is visible in the upper courtyard.

The finished rooms include the throne room, which features a glass gem-encrusted chandelier; all Twelve Apostles, painted on the wall that surrounds the pedestal for the throne - the actual throne was never finished; and Jesus, behind the pedestal. The King's master suite includes a four-post bed hand carved of wood, the canopy of which is carved as the cathedral towers from every cathedral in Bavaria, a secret flushing toilet (which flushes with water collected from an aqueduct) and a running sink in the shape of a swan. The palace also includes an oratory, accessible from the dressing room and the master suite, which features an ivory crucifix, a room made to look like a cavern, a full kitchen equipped with hot and cold running water and heated cupboards, servants' quarters, a study, a dining room and the Singers' Hall. The Singers' Hall is a venue for performances by musicians and playwrights. The King built it for Wagner as a place to write and perform plays. The King died before watching a performance in the Singers' Hall, but it has been used since the King's death.

It is now almost forgotten that Ludwig II was a patron of modern inventions and that he pioneered the introduction of electricity into public life in Bavaria. His new palaces were the first buildings to use electricity (i.e. the Venus Grotto at Linderhof) and other modern conveniences. Through his building activities, Ludwig kept many particular crafts alive, the knowledge and expertise of which would have died out otherwise, and he provided work and income to artisans, builders, plasterers, and decorators.

Photo by tossmeanote

Seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886, Neuschwanstein was opened to the public. The shy king had built the castle in order to withdraw from public life - now vast numbers of people came to view his private refuge.

Today Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular of all the palaces and castles in Europe. Every year 1.3 million people visit "the castle of the fairy-tale king". In the summer around 6,000 visitors a day stream through rooms that were intended for a single inhabitant.

The setting of Neuschwanstein could not be more idyllic. However, movement in the foundation area has to be continuously monitored, and the sheer rock walls must be repeatedly secured. The harsh climate also has a detrimental effect on the limestone façades, which will have to be renovated section by section over the next few years.

Photo by /kallu

It is surely the most famous castle in the world — and, like its builder, one of the most misunderstood. Neuschwanstein castle is a structure of contrast, irony, and mystery — and beauty.

One of biggest ironies of this castle is that a structure built to be a private refuge, “sacred and out of reach” (“heilig und unnahbar”), should now be host to thousands of tourists each year. Another irony: although it was built largely as a stage for Wagnerian productions (“a worthy temple for the divine friend [Wagner]”), the composer never set foot in Neuschwanstein. Nor was the castle’s throne room was ever completed in time to contain a throne.

To execute his dream project, the king commissioned a stage designer as architect. The castle that Christian Jank designed for Ludwig inspires awe and surprise in visitors to this day. But in part because the Disneyesque image of Neuschwanstein has become such a cliché, it is easy to dismiss it as an ostentatious example of poor taste, an anachronistic piece of foolishness. Nevertheless, ever since it was opened to the public, Neuschwanstein has acted as a powerful magnet. The castle’s unique location combined with Ludwig’s “fantasy in stone” creates a special magic. But like any work of art, the more one knows about Neuschwanstein, the more one can appreciate it.

Photo by thefuton

The engineering architect was Eduard Riedel (after 1874, Georg Dollmann; from 1886 to 1892 Julius Hofmann), and Neuschwanstein is an engineering marvel. The castle’s construction lasted 23 years, until long after Ludwig’s death. Although built in the Germanic late Romanesque style of the 13th century, the castle was equipped with the best technology available in the late 1860s. Quite unlike any real medieval castle, Neuschwanstein has a forced-air central heating system. Its rarely-used kitchen was of the most advanced design. The winter garden features a large sliding glass door.

Out of all of Ludwig’s amazing “fantasies in stone,” Neuschwanstein seems to be the most fantastic.

With some of the structure still not totally complete, Ludwig moved into Neuschwanstein’s finished rooms for the first time in 1884. The king spent eleven nights in his dream castle from 27 May to 8 June.

Contrary to popular legend, Ludwig’s building projects did not bankrupt the Bavarian treasury. Neuschwanstein, like Ludwig’s other castles, was financed entirely from the king’s own funds.

Photo by winninator


  © Blogger template Psi by 2008

Back to TOP