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Stephen Ressler Ph.D

Stephen Ressler Ph.D >

Learning to See and Understand Structure
Episode 1 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
How are ideas for buildings, bridges, and towers transformed from sketches to concrete reality? What are the three essential qualities that make a structure great? What's the difference between seeing a structure and actually understanding it?
The Rise and Fall of the Gothic Cathedral
Episode 12 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Gothic cathedrals are lasting testaments to the power of a series of sweeping architectural developments in medieval Europe. After examining the roots of Gothic cathedrals in their Romanesque predecessors, focus on several structural innovations: including flying buttresses and pointed arches:…
Three Great Domes: Rome to the Renaissance
Episode 13 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Trace the dome's evolution from the 1st century A.D. to the Renaissance. It's a journey reflected in the increasingly sophisticated domes of three great structures: the ancient Roman Pantheon, the Byzantine-era basilica of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and the Renaissance-era…
Egypt and Greece: Pyramids to the Parthenon
Episode 10 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Embark on your tour of different types of structures from around the world and across time. Your first stop: ancient Egypt, and the surprisingly complex engineering of pyramids, including the Great and Red pyramids. Your second stop: ancient Greece, where…
How Iron and Science Transformed Arch Bridges
Episode 14 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Examine the development of arched bridges during and after the Industrial Revolution. See how the revolutionary Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale paved the way for the development of science-based engineering. Also, see how science contributed to increasingly sophisticated modern bridges such…
The Great Skyscraper Race
Episode 19 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
The human aspiration to build upward reaches its climax with the skyscraper. Learn the story behind America's great skyscraper race and the increasingly sophisticated buildings it produced. Among the structural masterpieces you examine in depth are the Wainwright Building, the…
Suspension Bridges: The Challenge of Wind
Episode 16 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
In July 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge dramatically collapsed in a steady 42-mph wind. In this concluding episode on suspension bridges, focus on how the Brooklyn Bridge, the Severn Bridge, and other bridges were designed to combat the second great…
The Rise of Iron- and Steel-Framed Buildings
Episode 18 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
How did iron and steel revolutionize building design? Find out in this trip back to late 18th- and early 19th-century Europe and America, where iron-framed structures: such as sheds at England's Chatham Dockyard, New York City's Equitable Life Insurance Building,…
The Glory of Rome in Arches and Vaults
Episode 11 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Learn why the arch is the principal structural feature of ancient Rome. Your detailed case studies range from simple bridges such as the Pont St. Martin and triumphal arches such as the Arch of Titus to massive aqueducts like the…
The Science of Structure - Forces in Balance
Episode 2 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Explore how two types of external forces: loads (forces applied to structures) and reactions (forces developed at supports, in response to applied loads): act on structures such as Kansas City's Chouteau Bridge. Also, learn how these forces are related to…
Loads and Structural Systems
Episode 9 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Structures are heavily influenced by the loads they're designed to carry. First, take a closer look at the most important loads structures must resist, including traffic loads and earthquake loads. Then, using the historic iron building at Watervliet Arsenal in…
From Wood to Steel - Properties of Materials
Episode 4 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Materials profoundly influence the form, function, and structure of great buildings, bridges, and towers. Using steel (which is superior in terms of strength, ductility, and stiffness) as a benchmark, compare the structural properties of wood, masonry, concrete, and iron: and…
Great Cantilever Bridges: Tragedy and Triumph
Episode 17 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Professor Ressler shows how structural catastrophes produced two bridges that provide a wonderful opportunity to see and understand structure: Scotland's Firth of Forth Bridge and Canada's second Quebec Bridge. You'll also gain insights into the human element of engineering, and…
The Beauty and Versatility of Modern Concrete
Episode 20 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Concrete, the world's most commonly used construction material, has been used in buildings that are anything but common. See concrete's versatility at work in an incredible range of structures, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, the Salginatobel Bridge in the Swiss…
Building Up: Columns and Buckling
Episode 5 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
One of the most potent human aspirations supported by engineering is to build up. Learn how this has been done from antiquity to the present with columns: structural members that carry load primarily in compression. You'll also learn about buckling:…
Suspension Bridges: The Battle of the Cable
Episode 15 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
After learning the science behind suspension bridges, begin your two-episode look at these structural marvels. Here, relive the Battle of the Cable, in which 19th-century engineers struggled over whether to build suspension cables from iron chains (as in England's Menai…
Internal Forces, Stress, and Strength
Episode 3 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Use the Simple Tension Test (pulling on a structural element until it reaches the breaking point) as a gateway to understanding the concepts of internal force, stress, and strength. Then, see these concepts at work in structures such as the…
Trusses: The Power of the Triangle
Episode 7 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Trusses, the subject of this fascinating episode, are rigid frameworks composed of structural members connected at joints and arranged into networks of triangles. Learn how they work to stabilize and support a range of structural wonders, including the Brooklyn Bridge…
Amazing Thin Shells: Strength from Curvature
Episode 21 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
Thin shells are unique structural elements that use curvature: cylindrical, dome-like, or saddle-like: to attain strength and stiffness. See these three types of thin shells used creatively in buildings ranging from St. Paul's Cathedral in London to the Zeiss planetarium…
Cables and Arches: The Power of the Parabola
Episode 8 of Understanding the World's Greatest Structures
In this episode, Professor Ressler introduces you to two final structural elements: cables and arches. The Saint Louis Gateway Arch and the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge are just two examples of breathtaking structural features that also have extensive,…