a journal of our edible education

Cucumbers and Cathedrals

If you want to build a cathedral and your materials are limited to wood, stone and mortar you might want to consider the triangle and its cousin, the arch.  Triangles and arches make cathedrals, at least as we know them, possible.  Triangles and arches make lots of things possible.  Obviously, craftsmen have been using triangles made of wood to build simple peaked roofs for ages, but in cathedrals, triangles and arches really show-off.

People have always loved high ceilings and cathedrals have some of the highest.  Unfortunately, if you’re limited to using stone, you can build a wall only so high before things start to get shaky.  Sure, you could make the walls thicker so you could build them taller, but thick walls really limit the possibility for natural lighting.  What’s a cathedral without big stained glass windows?  Enter, the Triangle!  Early cathedral builders discovered that if you place solid triangular buttresses perpendicular to the outside of walls, you can keep the walls thin and make them taller.  It wasn’t long before they realized the buttresses  didn’t need to be solid, so they just kept the outline of the triangle to make the building seem a little less bulky. These new triangular outlines became known as flying buttresses and  they look like this:

Pretty soon builders began adding  larger and more complex flying buttresses until cathedrals started to look like this:

When cathedrals look like that on the outside, with the inherent strength of supportive triangles and arches, they can look like this on the inside: (cue majestic organ music)

Yes, when it comes to architectural strength, triangles and arches put squares and rectangles in their place.

Which brings us to cucumbers.  Cucumbers grow on sprawling vines that do better when provided a vertical structure on which to climb.  Bamboo is an excellent building material that can be tied together with inexpensive twine.  If you’re building a trellis for cucumbers, consider incorporating triangles and arches; if you’re building them with fourth-graders, maybe you could talk about cathedrals.  They think the term “flying buttress” is hilarious.


3 responses

  1. As always, you bring a smile to my face.

    September 30, 2012 at 6:20 pm

  2. Janice Banks

    Cathedrals and cucumbers rock! Impressive application!!

    September 30, 2012 at 8:38 pm

  3. I imagine you had their undivided attention at “Flying Buttresses”… way to incorporate…Brilliant!

    October 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm

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