Top 5 Structures Where Math is an Integral Part of the Design
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Top 5 Structures Where Math is an Integral Part of the Design

Math is everywhere! And, in most cases, your life depends on it. Here are our math department’s favorite structures that use math in their design.


The Daniel Hoan Bridge: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge is a tied arch bridge.  In the Tied-arch bridge, the outward-directed horizontal forces of the arch, or top chord, are borne as tension by the bottom chord (either tie-rods or the deck itself) rather than by the ground or the bridge foundations.


The Bixby Creek Bridge: Big Sur, California

Bixby Creek Bridge is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge in Big Sur, California.  A spandrel-braced arch carries the deck on the top of the arch.


The Gateway Arch: St. Louis, Missouri

One common misconception is that the St. Louis arch is a parabola.  The arch is actually a shape called a catenary.  A catenary is the shape made by a chain that is freely hanging between two supports.  The Finnish-American designer of the Gateway Arch, Eero Saarinen, know that a parabola was not the best shape for such an arch, therefore a catenary was used for the model.


Milwaukee Art Museum: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish born architect, has designed many bridges, train stations, stadiums, and art museums across the world. He often pushes the boundaries between architecture and engineering, as discussed in this article by Arch Daily.

“In 1996 he took all of this a step further with his design and construction of an extension to the Milwaukee Art Museum. It consisted of a long glass-and-steel reception hall with an eighty-foot ceiling, all shaded by an enormous moveable sunscreen on the roof. The screen had two ribbed panels that opened and closed like the wings of a giant seagull, putting the entire edifice into motion, and giving the sense of a building that could take flight.” 



Do you love the thrill of being on a roller coaster?  Every time you get on you are putting your faith in the engineers that designed the roller coaster.  Even the slightest mistake in math could be a matter of life and death for the riders! Roller coaster engineers have developed the perfect loop, one that is fun without causing riders to pass out, and they use the formula ac = v2⁄ r to do it!

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