Architecture: Post-and-Lintel Construction

Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman architects made extensive use of Post-and-lintel construction to support the roofs of temples and public places. Two vertical posts on either side of a beam (or lintel) hold up the beam and everything above the opening. This is a strong support when the structure is level and gravity pulls down evenly on the structure. The weight of the wall above the lintel is the load. In Post-and-lintel construction they would use many kinds of stone. Stone and marble were chosen for important monuments because they are incombustible and can be expected to endure. Stone is also a sculptural material; stone architecture was often integral with stone sculpture. The use of stone has declined, however, because a number of other materials are more amenable to industrial use and assembly. Some regions lack both timber and stone; their peoples used the earth itself, tamping certain mixtures into walls or forming them into bricks to be dried in the sun. Later they baked these substances in kilns, producing a range of bricks and tiles with greater durability.
While stone has high compressive strength, it is comparatively weak in tension. The fact that the greatest tensile stresses are concentrated in the midpoint of the bottom edge of a beam causes a disproportionate reliance on the tensile strength of this small area. This grossly underutilizes most of the beam’s other mass. As a result the lintels had to be made especially thick and wide in order to increase the amount of mass they had to resist these tensile stresses. This increased their own dead weight, which significantly reduced the distance they could reliably span to about eight feet on average. As a consequence, Greek temples, like the Parthenon, were so crowded with columns that there was not much room for crowds to gather inside. Post and lintel construction is often found in homes in our area for windows and doorways. The post and lintel holds everything th…


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