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Orthoclase That Inspired Skyscraper Construction

Joint project of St.-Petersburg Mining museum and Forpost Nord-West.
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Nature often shows us how the laws of physics and mathematics work through geometric shapes. Sometimes we think such forms cannot exist in nature since they seem too perfect and ideal.

Many minerals have shapes that seem unreal, almost impossible. Orthoclase or orthoclase feldspar is a mineral that deserves to belong to this group. Its name comes from the Ancient Greek, meaning 'straight fracture'. The name suits the stone: its crystals often look like quadrangular prisms, stacked at right angles and pointing upwards. Hence, orthoclase has an outward appearance in some way resembling multi-storey skyscrapers.

Had the builders of the tower of Babel been inspired by orthoclase, the world's first skyscraper might still be standing. The imperfections of the legendary structure, which looked more like a spiral staircase tapering towards the top than a habitable place, were demonstrated by the Dutch painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder in his 1563's self-titled painting.

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© Общественное достояние

Millennia later after the events of Babel presumably took place, geometric forms of orthoclase have materialised in modern American architecture, which is now hard to imagine without skyscrapers. However, there is no need to head off to New York to enjoy the view of the precious geometric forms of the city's central part. St. Petersburg Mining University Museum houses a collection of orthoclases looking similar to that area of New York City but in miniature.

There is also an evident similarity between the orthoclase structure and the simple, superimposed geometric forms intrinsic to cubism, a form of modernist art. An avant-garde movement emerged in the early 20th century and was pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Фото © Общественное достояние/Пабло Пикассо. Дома на холме.

There is also constructivism, inspired by cubism, which was extremely popular in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This architectural philosophy originated in Russia and, as remarkable as it is, buildings designed in this style are still not rare to the streets of Saint Petersburg.

Фото ©