Our classroom soon turned into an architectural model making workshop. Domes and architectural elements – especially Doric, Ionic, Corinthian columns – were on everyone’s mind. Doodles and watercolor paintings started turning into architectural explorations as the children embraced
the aesthetic designs and challenges.
|G. and E.K. add their dome creations to their |
classmates’ designs on our whiteboard
|The Duomo in Florence|
In helping the children think through design and the physics involved in engineering a dome, we related to them a funny story about Brunelleschi and the design competition. It may or may not be true, but it did help simplify some of our thinking about domes. In our model making to date, the students had observed the need to keep the dome from being too top heavy, and that the shape of the dome needed to be like a bowl or perhaps like half of an orange, or kind of like an egg. The story about Pippo does indeed involve an egg. How is a dome like an egg? Pippo offered all the architects he was competing with a challenge, stating that the commission to build the dome should be given to the person who could make an egg stand on end. We gave that same challenge to our students.
Several attempts were made to try to keep it standing up: propping it up, using our hands to support it...and then crack! T. thinks she has it - but does she?
In the Pippo story, after all the architects tried unsuccessfully to keep their eggs up, Pippo then simply took his egg, cracked it, and then placed it on a table where it stood up – his “egg dome,” along with his model, won him the commission to build the Duomo.
|picture of the egg domes, a la Brunelleschi|
Above: The children give egg dome making a try, using the Pippo technique
So what did the egg experiment teach us about domes? Basically an egg is like two domes, one on top of the other, and eggs are a simple way to not only understand dome design, but also the compression and tension physics involved. As King noted in his book about Brunelleschi, “The humble egg has long fascinated scientists and engineers…’Why is it that an egg held with your hands by its top and bottom and pressed with great force cannot be crushed?’…the egg – or rather a half egg-shell, placed upside down – was the inspiration behind the architecture of the domed vault.”
|Stephanie and I are trying desperately to crack an egg with|
equal amounts of pressure on both ends. Eggs are amazingly strong!