30 St Mary Axe under construction

30 St Mary Axe under construction. © David Hawkins and Arup

Container City

Nicholas Lacey and Partners and Eric Reynolds/Buschow Henley & ABK Arc, Container City, London, 2002

The word structure in architecture can mean two things:

  • It can mean something that is built. For example, buildings or bridges can be described as structures.
  • It can also mean how the different parts of a building are put together into a whole so that the building does not fall down!


To make a building you can either:

Make a frame and cover it (or fill it) with different materials. This is like making an architectural skeleton and covering it with skin. Once you have constructed the frame, you can clad (cover) the walls with different materials such as glass, metal panels or timber. You then need to cover the roof with materials such as tiles or sheets of metal.


You can build the walls of your structure with blocks stacked on top of each other. To make a wall like this, you simply place one block (eg. a brick or block of stone) on top of another.

Do you have any wooden building blocks at home? Try piling up one brick on top of another in a straight line and see how high you can build.

Now try staggering them. Can you go higher? Is the wall stronger?

Some architects use unusual blocks to construct buildings. At Container City in East London, old shipping containers were used like large building blocks for their structure.