Abstract. This page will direct you to the Readers' Queries online in the Nexus Network Journal.

Click here to go to the NNJ homepage

Readers' Queries Online

Have been an avid on-line reader of Nexus since I visited Roncesvalles several years ago & spotted a geometrical relief on a stone in a wall there. So far as I have been able to find, there has been no discussion of this geometry, which looks like a medieval mason's work. I can see the circle geometry and guess that there is square geometry there too. What seems to be a mason's square is carved beside the geometry.

Geometric carving, Roncesvalles

Read the responses...

I have a question for the Nexus readers: "Are there any relationships between architecture and higher mathematics?" By "higher" I mean, mathematics at the level of 1st master and up. The topology paper goes in that direction, but the reason why I propose it is different: I recently wrote a paper (in Dutch) on "Africa and higher mathematics". "True, die-hard" mathematicians sometimes take architectural math as "baby math", and of course, related to Africa, there are some down-to-earth social (extremist) influences involved. Nevertheless, in the architecture case, the question could be seen as a modification of Mario Salvadori's query.
Read the responses...

I would like to propose a topic for your "query". Last October, I visited an old church in Zsambek, Hungary. Apart from the turbulent history of the place, and the church in particular, there was something special with some arcs, as shown
in this picture:

Well now, Kim, is this a good start for a Nexus discussion with your readers? Maybe it is even a good idea for a new Nexus column "I have seen this, but what (the hell) was it?"
Read the responses...

Do any contemporary architects understand enough about mathematics (beyond additive planning and accidental occurrences) to apply it in their work? And even if they did, why should they do so, given the collapse of ancient mimesis and related understanding until the 18th century, which was the foundation of such applications in the past?

While I recognise that I have adopted a very negative view, I should like to be proved wrong, as the question is most interesting  and provocative!
Read the responses...

In your opinion, what living architects show the greatest use of mathematics in their designs? Can you cite a building by one or more that shows this? If you could interview these architects, what question or questions would you ask?
Read the responses...

Something that has always interested me is the orientation of buildings. According to the excellent illustrated book, CITY: A story of Roman Planning and Construction, by David Macaulay 1974 (I have a Japanese version at hand), there is a priest who sacrifices a pheasant and a rabbit and checks their liver to find out if the area is suitable for living. My questions:

  1. Was this all religious (genius loci related?) or was it scientific in a way that checking the liver revealed the soil and chemical pollutants of the area?
  2. Where was this altar in the center of the later Roman grid city? ( in the forum where via principatis meets via praetoria)

Read the responses...

There must be a reason why the Colosseum and other amphitheatres are elliptical in plan, while their derivations -- the Iberian bull-fighting arenas, and the modern circus -- are circular, and the Roman theatres are semi-circular. I can't remember having seen any explanation in the literature. And -- are they true ellipses, or made up from circle arcs of different radii?
Read the responses...

To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the architect, the glass is not big enough.

To the NNJ reader, the glass will be the subject of his (or her) next presentation at the Nexus 2004 conference.

Would anyone like to add to the list?
Read the responses...

Following Frank Lloyd Wright's influence on twentieth century architecture, one can trace a path from his immediate draftsmen in Oak Park, to the Prairie School in general, to the young European Modernists, to the Taliesin Apprenticeship and FLW School of Architecture. I would like to follow that path of Wright's design language of geometry and its impact on late twentieth and current twenty-first century architectural practice. Can the NNJ readership help in formulating a list of architects who have been influenced by Wright's geometry?
Read the responses...

I have noticed, possibly largely from those more mathematically inclined, the tendency to limit one's inquiry to the question of "how". What Professor Shneider of University of Colorado meant by distinguishing "reasoning" from "problem-solving" during the Nexus 2002 round-table, the point Dr. Perez-Gomez has made in years in his work in theory, and what Dr. Tavernor pointed out by "quality" as distinguished from "quantity" all point to yet another kind of inquiry, that is, the question of "why". "Why is mathematics used in architecture?" or "Why is this particular mathematics appear in this piece of architecture?", as opposed to "How mathematics is used in architecture?", provides another important aspect of the subject. Expanding on the questions regarding of "why" will, I think, allow us to go beyond the surface of form and structure making, and toward the understanding of the ideas and the ideals that have supported architecture.
Read the responses...

In the Nexus 2002 round table discussion, Robert Tavernor said that in his Ten Books on Architecture Leon Battista Alberti writes about both the quantity and the quality of numbers. To quote Tavernor, "Thus, [Alberti] talks about the importance of measuring buildings, of the experience of measuring buildings, so that there is that one-to-one relation with things: that numbers are not just abstract things, they describe qualities too. And he particularly talks about the quality of number in a universal sense, in terms of its relationship to ourselves and the meaning of number beyond ourselves. So I think it's very difficult to teach mathematics to architects today without also emphasising the quality of number. Understanding these qualities comes only through experience." Can anyone explain exactly what might be meant by the "quality" of number?
Read the reponses...

While to track the first rectangular or square plan would be almost impossible, in the case of circular plans we have Stonehenge (England) or Cuicuilco (México) as the possible firsts - or at least the earliest examples - of such genre.
What is it the first example - or at least the early ones - for a triangular architectural plan?
Read the responses...

It appears that the first pointed arch in Europe may have appeared in Sicily around 1130. In 1090 in Sicily there are no pointed arches; in 1130 there are. The first crusade dates from 1099. It may be logical to think that pointed arches were a result of the crusade.
Does anyone know what the first pointed arches were in Europe, and if there were any earlier than the Sicilian ones of 1130?
Read the reponses...

NNJ is an Amazon.com associate

The Nexus Network Journal is published by Kim Williams Books
Copyright ©2006 Kim Williams Books

top of page

NNJ Homepage

Order Nexus books!

Research Articles

Geometer's Angle

Book Reviews

Conference and Exhibit Reports

The Virtual Library

Submission Guidelines

Editorial Board

Top of Page