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Headquarters of the Longaberger Company in Newark, Ohio. (The Longaberger Company)

Crazy Construction

Find out about these one-of-a-kind buildings. Then calculate their surface area.

<p> The Walter Pyramid, a sports stadium, in Long Beach, California (The Walter Pyramid, California State University, Long Beach) </p><p> The Big Apple in Ontario, Canada (Beanstock Images / Masterfile)</p>

The Walter Pyramid, a sports stadium, in Long Beach, California (The Walter Pyramid, California State University, Long Beach)

The Big Apple in Ontario, Canada (Beanstock Images / Masterfile)

Let’s say you’re driving through the streets of Newark, Ohio. You look up to see a picnic basket that is more than 100 feet tall. Before you pinch yourself to see if you’re dreaming, look a little closer. This giant picnic basket has windows and a door—it’s actually the headquarters of picnic basket maker the Longaberger Company. The world is full of unique buildings like this one.

There’s the Big Apple, a bakery in Ontario, Canada, and the Walter Pyramid, a sports stadium in Long Beach, California. And though these buildings are very different, they have at least one thing in common: Each began as a design on paper or a computer screen.

Ron Rioux, an architect from Portland, Maine, says designing buildings involves a lot of math. “Math—especially geometry—is critically important for what we do,” he says.

Part of an architect’s job is to figure out the surface area for each building he or she designs. Why is this important? By calculating a building’s surface area, architects can determine how much material will be needed for the building’s exterior.

Calculate the surface areas of some of the world’s coolest buildings to see how they compare with the surface area of a school building.

SURFACE AREA FORMULAS

Remember: To find the area of a rectangle or square, multiply the width or length by the height.

 

SURFACE AREA OF A SPHERE=
4 × π × radius squared = 4πr2

SURFACE AREA OF A SQUARE PYRAMID =
base area + .5 × base perimeter × slant height

SURFACE AREA OF A RECTANGULAR PRISM =
(2 × base area) + (2 × side area) + (2 × side area)

SURFACE AREA OF A TRAPEZOIDAL PRISM =
base perimeter × prism’s height + 2 × base area

Calculate the surface areas of some of the world’s coolest buildings to see how they compare with the surface area of a school building.

This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2013 issue of Math. For more from Math, click here.

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