Where is the beauty in nuclear architecture?

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Nuclear power stations are an example of some of the latest engineering and architectural minds at work, but still fears of safety are rising around the world.  While many parts of the nuclear process are likewise breathtaking and stunning, the stations and buildings themselves are generally interpreted as intimidating and obtrusive structures, could this correlate with the safety of nuclear power plants?

Brunelleschi, in the building of the dome of Florence Cathedral, not only transformed the cathedral and the city of Florence, but also the role and status of the architect.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to examine any of the many architectural wonders around the world experiences the sheer power and will of man.  Architecture has the ability to take our breath away, and leave us standing in awe at the beauty before our eyes.

Throughout history the brightest and most creative minds in both the architectural and engineering fields have been constructing some of the most incredible ‘wonders’ that exceed the scope of imagination for thousands of years.

The architecture of a nuclear power plant is extremely complex, a nuclear reactor is a form of art in itself, and requires a vast amount of architectural and engineering knowledge to even conceptualize in working theory.  Today, some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in these fields are working to create new nuclear technology, which they hope will answer the world’s energy need for the foreseeable future.

The forms of buildings are far from being arbitrary in their design or accidental.  The materials used, the exact placement, and character of the workers is influenced on the structures that they create.

Whatever is created, is produced and transferred to other people and other countries, but shares the same fate, until some artist with incredible talent forms a new and consistent creation out of it.

Architecture, more than any other art, depends on the influence of religion; the “wonder” or building of status being with many empires, its highest object.   These examples of human skill would be constructed in focal points to be set apart as a symbol of the advancement or pursuit of excellence in the given area.

But nuclear reactors are also prone to the NIMBY syndrome, or ‘Not in my backyard!’.  Buildings the size of nuclear power stations would normally only be easily accommodated within a city, or on its fringes, but for obvious reasons they have to be built as far as possible from populated areas, and beside large bodies of water.

Beauty +  Design + Functionality = Safer?

Form follows function is a principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose. 

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American architect Louis Sullivan is quoted;

“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.”

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Georg Moller

Georg Moller (born January 21, 1784 in Diepholz; died March 13, 1852 in Darmstadt) was an architect and a town planner who worked in the South of Germany.  Moller is considered, along with Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Leo von Klenze, as one of the most important German architects.

Moller taught that two principles could be applied in forming opinions regarding structures of all ages and nations, and believed they were a sure test of any partial over or underrating.

  1. Any structure should correspond with all requirements including; the climate, style of construction, materials, and all sentiment and manners of the creators and time.
  2. All structures constitute in their principle forms, or well designed and built should reflect a harmony within itself, which would exclude or reject anything foreign or unsuitable.

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In his book ‘Conduct of Life’, Ralph Waldo Emerson expands on this concept.

“Moller, in his Essay on Architecture, taught that the building which was fitted accurately to answer its end, would turn out to be beautiful, though beauty had not been intended.”

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