Saturday, April 11, 2009

SPH: Not Your Typical Triangles

"If a man is at once acquainted with the geometric foundation of things and with their festal splendor, his poetry is exact and his arithmetic musical." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I thought about this weeks theme, I thought about a "YIELD" sign and... well, a "YIELD" sign. UH! OH! Is there anything else? Sure, when I was a kid in Summer Bible School we had the rhythm band... where you play the sticks and the sand blocks and... yes, the "triangle". But it has been many, many, many years since we did that and I really don't think they are popular any longer since this is the age of synthesizers and video games. So, the quest was to look at the world with a geometric eye...and here are the results.

Clockwise from top left: Three triangles in Colonial Williamsburg architecture.
Bottom left: Big country farm house in the big city (Virginia Beach)
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"I sketched a trapezoid on the back of an envelope. I drew a diagonal line across the trapezoid and produced two triangles. That was the beginning." ~ Pei, I.M. Chinese Architect

I realized that triangles are everywhere, particularly in architecture... from the triangular A-frame houses to the vaulted beams in our old house in Mississippi and the triangular gables in Stephen's house. But the most classic are seen in the Colonial Williamsburg homes, the big covered porticos with columns and decorative wood trim. Most are white, but every once in a while you see deep color thrown in; for example, the Peyton Randolph House is a dark rusty brown. I did find another unusual triangle atop this house smack in the middle of Virginia Beach. This home is a large country style farm house surrounded by neighborhood homes built in the sixties... mostly cookie cutter ranch styles with a single garage and picture windows. It is a house that would seem more at ease amid acres of rolling golden wheat... but it does catch the western evening sun in a magical way.

Top: Thoracic triangle (Trigonopeltastes delta - Delta Flower Scarab)
Bottom right: Colonial bench, Williamsburg
Bottom left: Governors chair, Capitol Building House of Burgesses, Williamsburg

"The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word." ~ Galileo Galilei (1564-1642. Italian astronomer, mathematician, and physicist)

After documenting the architecture, I looked for smaller examples.... how about the furniture within.. or sitting outside these homes. These benches with the open woodwork are found everywhere in Williamsburg... the patterns are different.. some with more triangular spaces than others. This pattern of woodworking is also popular as accents on houses all over southern Virginia; used to decorate faux balconies or as railings on decking and outside stairs. In a more formal setting, this high back (now that is an understatement) chair topped with a triangle is found in the House of Burgesses within the colonial capitol building. I understand that the king's governor over Virginia would sit here during sessions.

Of course, I couldn't let nature go unnoticed this week... God was the first mathematician and all creation is filled with geometric shapes. This beetle was feasting on our Joe Pye Weed and the yellow triangle on its black thorax was striking. Notice the name.. delta flower scarab... "delta" a triangular letter in the Greek alphabet.. how appropriate!

Shiny triangles.... Chrysler Building, New York City Posted by Picasa

"The stars are the apexes of what triangles!" ~ Henry David Thoreau (American Essayist, Poet and Philosopher, 1817-1862)

I had to close with something grand and shiny! What better than the tall Chrysler Building in Manhattan... this took an unbelievable amount of technical know-how and innovative architecture to conceive and then build this skyscraper... and how do they keep it so shiny?

So, will you ever look at a triangle in the same way again? I won't!

(end of post)

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