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Mathematics in Architecture

When I think about mathematics, I recall my childhood fascination with the large ancient civilizations. More specifically I think about the Egyptians,Mayans, and the Greeks. For example, the Great Pyramid at Giza is a near perfect square, with each side facing a different cardinal direction. They are aligned within .02 degrees of a perfect right angle. The pyramids at Giza also seem to be aligned with the stars in Orion’s belt. The Mayans were also very mathematical in their buildings. The Pyramid of the Sun, located at the temple site of Teotihuacán, is designed so that the ratio of the perimeter to the height is almost exactly 4pie. As a matter of fact it is less than .05 percent off the actual value of 4pie. Also, this building has 91 steps on every side, and when added to the platform on top, that makes for 365 total steps. And during the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the shadows of the temple and surrounding buildings form the shape of a serpent on the steps of the temple. The Greeks also built very mathematically precise buildings. Greek temples were designed with the standard of the “Golden Section? which is a relationship between the base and height of 1.618 to 1.

A much more modern and obvious use of math in buildings is Le Corbusier’s use of Le Modular, a system based on measurements and proportions of the human body. Le Corbusier used these dimensions on most of his buildings.

The Great Pyramid at Giza
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The Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacán
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The Parthenon
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The Golden Seciton
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Le Corbusier's "Le Modular"
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