Structure

A structural system is, usually, invisible to the eye.

When referred to buildings, structures transmit loads to the ground and because of its stiffness, buildings stay erect. Slabs are also structural and they probably are the components which we are most aware of.

With exception of masterpieces in the Modern Movement of Architecture, where structure became an icon itself, as well as an essential part of the design, columns, beams, trusses, cantilevers and, obviously, foundations, tend to be concealed within other architectural parts of the buildings, i.e.: walls, raisers, between flooring and ceiling.

At basement levels, where parkings are mostly placed, structure turns somehow architectural since it shows itself, besides its original function, as space limit and modulation for the circulations and parking lots.

People don’t usually pay attention to structure until it becomes an issue. As mentioned, they are obstacles in parkings, in order to maneuvering; they are a harder resistance within walls – you cannot drill it unless with specific equipment; slabs, on the contrary become a solution when you decide to extend a mezzanine; they arise as a concern, when cracks appear in unexpected places.

In Society, we could apply the same concepts: those of us who are not involved in construction or building design, don’t really worry about these matters, as in any structural system, load bearing elements are supposed to be stable, stiff and reliable. Only those who study these  “hidden” parts of society organization, care about the backbone, pillars, nodes, and foundations of it.

Now, although there is no reason to assume society structure is not “robust”, I also believe we feel a bit reluctant to speak about such specific and thorny issues. We tend to avoid talking about any possibility of structure in the verge of collapsing, not to mention when it’s particularly the one we are standing on.

It’s part of human psychology to avoid unpleasant issues. We prefer to believe that underlying parts of any entity (building, cars, transport infrastructure, universities, companies, societies) are in perfect conditions and we only need to concern about superfluous matters, which are easier to manage and change.

We ask for proofs when someone claims there are symptoms of a possible stress in any structure. It’s true that methodologically, one should always approach any problem from the easy aspects first, only to address the most complex ones, afterwards. Unless, of course, that solid evidence is found like symptoms of possible failure in critical parts of any structure.

There are fields of knowledge where specialists can build up a diagnosis of stress in structures of any kind, with great accuracy, due to their expertise, but also by means of early detection devices: earthquakes, diseases, corruption, bankruptcies, etc.

But, do we have specialists who could predict and prevent a deeper global stress in society as a whole?

How such a diagnosis could be done, when in the collapse of markets and countries, there are conflicts of interests emerging, and some stakeholders might not even want to change the course of action?

Aren’t we getting enough hints already that the current structure of society is under stress?

Aren’t new cracks apearing day after day, that show our society is not stable as it should?

Shouldn’t we start worrying about the pillars that hold our system up straight?

Isn’t a bit unrealistic to think that if the lower sections of the structure collapse, the top of it would remain unchanged?

Why are we avoiding the discussion of these issues, and commenting yesterday’s football match instead?

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