Friday, April 20, 2007
The rib structure of the huge leaves - 7 ft (2 m) across - of the giant South American water lily, Victoria amazonica, can support the weight of a child. These leaves were Joseph Paxton's inspiration for the pattern of the cast-iron ribs of the Crystal Palace, built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. Further models may be found in the many tall tress that grow in the shallow soils of the rain forests. These push out aerial roots from their trunks for additional anchorage and support, giving them the appearance of the flying buttresses that rise from piers to support upper walls and towers are added to prevent the soaring structure from collapsing outwards under the weight of a vaulted roof.