Monthly Archives: May 2012

B29 front wheel hatch – outside view

Like many architects I am fascinated by aeroplane construction. The B29 is particularly interesting due to its circumstances. It was designed and developed to be built with less skilled labour than had been the case with earlier designs and was made with as simple shapes as possible. The B17 is a flow of compound curves but most of the B29 is a cylinder and a cone. The junction of the wings are not blended as in the B 17, but have  small fillets. The performance is realised through detail rather than idealised form. A lot of attention is lavished on the front wheel hatch. On the outside (above)  the double curvature surface is inherently strong and is kept smooth for the wind with flush rivets. When the ‘plane is landed there is a large space within the hatch where the wheel used to be stowed. In an elegant innovation this space is used as an entry hatch for the crew to enter the ‘plane, so that openings that weaken the airframe are kept to a minimum (below).

B 29 crew hatch within the front wheel well

The wheel hatch doors have pressed inner skins that have a depth to provide strength. As they are mostly out of the wind (except for take off and landing) they are fixed with domed rivet heads. The inner skins are connected to the outer surface at the perimeter and some dished sections to make connections across the centre of the hatch doors (see below).

B29 structural connection between inner and outer front wheel hatch door skin

The structural depth of these two skins protrudes into the space occupied by the landing gear when the wheels are stowed during flight. To overcome this packaging problem there are dimples pressed into the inner skin to accept the front

wheel (see below).

See dimple pressed into inner skin in foreground to accept front landing gear

In quite a simple door there are therefore a number of elegant negotiations to get all the parts to work together.

B 29 Front wheel hatch doors

B 29 Front Wheel – the object the doors have to fit around.

This example is from Duxford but there is another one on display at PIMA in Tucson.

There is a film on youtube about the making of the B 29 that you might enjoy – find it here

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

I have to admit a weakness for planetarium projectors. I started looking at planetaria more seriously around the same time as I was researching dioramas. The combination of material and pictorial space was resonant with the dioramas with the added pleasure of the temporal dimension. Added to that is the projector, an analogue computer able to register the night sky in either hemisphere to represent any moment over a several thousand year span. As instruments they embody a knowledge and understanding of astronomy. Some of the mechanisms are under precise control while others, such as the eyelids on the spherical projectors at either end just fall with gravity with weights to stop the sky below the horizon being projected onto the audience, are dependent on the situation of the projector. I am working on a simple analogue computer at the moment for the new drawing instruments and the planetarium projectors, along with the Norden bombsight, have been helpful for finding my way.

The projector above is from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, which has  been replaced by a digital version. The images below are from the book Captured Stars.

Planetarium Projector

Planetarium Projector

Planetarium Projector

You might be interested in the Mel Bochner and Robert Smithson article structured around the (old) Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in Art Voices Fall 1966, discussed in an article in the September 2006 Artforum by Mel Bachner.


The fossilised and squashed remains of a fish-like creature from the Yale Peabody museum. It follows a pattern of such fossils with a few dislocated vertebra revealing the other sections of the spine. The alternate flip and flop of the ribs and the various views of the vertebra provide a slightly cubist view. Like a low relief sculpture, it sits somewhere between two and a fully three dimensional existence.

The thing is so flat that the stereoscopy hardly registers. As with the dioramas, though, the three dimensional registration is quite revealing.

Giant turtle

I have been looking at a number of turtle and tortoise skeletons. They seem to have most of the pieces that a mammal would have but some (as with the one above) do away with a redundant spine. Others appear to have a vestigial spine in parallel to the (structural) shell. This one is from the museum of comparative anatomy in the Jardin de Plants in Paris in the dinosaur section. The view below is of the same gallery from the balcony.


To resolve the stereoscopic images go cross eyed until a part in one image registers with the same part in the other. This should give you three images, where you concentrate on the middle one. Try to relax – if you have the images registered over each other the three dimensions will appear and then gain depth as you become more comfortable with it. If you are having trouble registering the images, click on the image to see it in a separate window and make the image smaller until you can resolve the stereoscopic image.

Parisian Dinosaurs

I am working on some new drawings – I hope to have some new things up in the next couple of weeks.




Three stereoscopic views of the packaging of a B-24’s Pratt and Whitney R-1830 turbo-supercharged engines. Not quite as tight as the organs in our torso, but beautifully packaged none the less. Anyone who has seen my Springer book may remember the photograph on page 38 that shows the B24 being drawn at the Ford Willow Run plant (see here), with a visceral relationship between the draftsmen and the drawing.

This example is from Duxford.

Use the usual process for resolving the stereoscopic images