JOST A MON

Nov 6, 2007

Gauge-Invariant Architecture

As Jeeves said to Wooster1, a fortuitous concatenation of circumstances led me from physics to architecture. I was browsing the web for a readily comprehensible example of gauge-invariant transformations (for no particular reason, except that they sounded rather grand) when I encountered this article. Eric Zaslow talks about coupled manifestations (say, magnetism and eletricity) of an underlying mechanism (electromagnetism), where each manifestation can be separately and differently deformed, but the underlying mechanism stays unchanged. To illustrate, he pointed out the Suite Bollard building in Curitiba, southern Brazil.

Truly, this is a marvel of modern architecture. Each floor can rotate independently of the others, to any angle. That is to say, the angle of rotation is independent of the height of the floor. When all the storeys are in motion, this is a remarkable sight. Further, each floor can move at a user-specified speed, such that a complete rotation takes anything between 15 minutes and an hour. The gauge-invariance here stems from the fact that the phase of each floor changes, but the building as a whole remains the same.

A bit of further browsing elicits the following non-physical details about the edifice. Curitiba is a trendsetter in design and urban planning2, so it's no wonder that this building came to be constructed here. A tender for its construction was bid by around 30 companies (mostly Brazilian, but also one German), and it was finished in 2001. A static central core supplies the immovable aspects: plumbing, utilities and building services. Each facade comprises double-sheeted glass, coloured gold, silver or blue, different on each floor. The building is 15 storeys high, of which eleven contain apartments, each 2884 square feet in floor area, and costing (at the time) \$300,000.

Footnotes:

1) Bertie: And owing to...what's that something of circumstances you hear people talking about? Cats enter into it, if I remember rightly.
Jeeves: Would concatenation be the word for which you are groping?

2) Arthur Lubow,
Recycle City: The Road to Curitiba, New York Times, May 20, 2007.