One of the first things we learned about in History of Architecture 101 was Romanesque architecture, and thus Roman arches. Moving beyond the Greeks and their boring lintels, the Romans figured out that you could create massive, self-supporting archways that locked into place once the keystone in the top was inserted.
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Taking advantage of the compressive strength of stone, this system of archbuilding yielded magnificent structures. And unlike those moody Goths who later devised their own lousy take on the arch, the Roman arch was a nice, rational semicircle.
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So effective is the technique that it even works with old computer monitors; all you need is an intern labor force that understands they are required to come in on Saturday to realize your architectural whims.
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The thing about Roman arches is that the arch doesn't lock into place until the keystone is added. That means that until you get to that last piece, the entire structure must temporarily be held in place by scaffolding (or interns).
Enter a caption (optional) Seven interns working in concert can develop tremendous compressive strength
However, a Vancouver-based company called Lock-Block has devised a clever, mobile scaffold that happens to come in the shape of a truck. The company's mainstay is producing interlocking rectangular concrete blocks, akin to enormous Lego pieces. Their Arch-Lock system applies this concept to wedge-shaped pieces. Once their special Zipper Truck is driven to the site, the Arch-Lock blocks can be stacked using the truck itself as the scaffold. Have a look at this:
Pretty crazy, no? And it appears, judging by the way the driver occasionally scoots the truck forwards and backwards, that the array of beams is actually tapered towards the rear; this irregularity would allow the driver to jiggle the pieces into place, until the protrusions properly nest into the cavities and gravity takes over.
The benefits of the Zipper Truck system are manifold. For one thing, the structure goes up relatively quickly; the company claims their system "reduces construction time by as much as 90% [versus] a comparable conventional reinforced post and beam concrete structure. And with no embedded steel to limit the service life, the structure will last indefinitely."
The design is also seismic-resistant. And despite the fact that the structure will last--if Roman creations are any indication--for thousands of years, should you decide to relocate the structure, the process is completely reversible. In contrast to other concrete structures that must be taken down with dynamite and a wrecking ball, the Arch-Lock blocks can simply be plucked out of place and reused elsewhere. That's a wonderfully sustainable benefit to using gravity for joinery, and a lesson you can easily teach your interns over a weekend.
Are happy to cancel their brunch reservations in order to participate in team-building exercises