August 03, 2011

5 Examples of Cantilever Coolness

by: Taz Loomans


I have to admit, the structural engineering classes at architecture school weren’t my favorite. But when I see cool cantilevers, I go gaga.

What is a cantilever in the first place? Wikipedia puts it simply: “A cantilever is a beam anchored at only one end.” The longer the span, the cooler it looks!

Below are 5 cool cantilevers to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

1. Parking Canopies are awesome cantilevers:

This is a double-cantilever, where the beams are supported by just one column in the center and then they overhang in two opposite directions. Parking canopies are perfect candidates for cantilevers because who wants a column on the outer edge of the canopy to ding their car on? This particular parking canopy structure is cool because it is a truss-system. It is vintage and they don’t make them like this anymore. Most parking canopies today are still cantilevers, but they’re made from solid steel beams.

2. Traffic light cantilevers have a remarkable span:

Check that span out! Only supported on one side, that traffic light beam spans about 25 feet to the center of the arterial Camelback Rd. Cool engineering feat! Again, a column on the other end wouldn’t make any sense and would be in the way of traffic, so it’s another perfect application of a cool cantilever.

3. Reinhabited old Circle Ks have amazing cantilevered overhangs:

Have you ever noticed driving around town how deep some of those cantilevered overhangs are on the old Circle Ks (which now maybe something else)? Did you know that some of these old Circle Ks were designed by Ralph Haver? If you want to know more about our cool old Circle Ks, check out artist Paho Mann’s work, he’s inventoried and photographed a bunch of them.

4. This billboard is the mother of all cantilevers:

See my Scion XB parked underneath this enormous billboard cantilvere? It’ll give you a sense of scale. Holy cow, that tube steel beam is gigantic and so is its span!!!

5. A more elegant cantilever on the same street:

Whatever you think of these light box installations along 7th Avenue, their elegant structural engineering is beyond reproach. The light box canopy cantilevers in two perpendicular directions. It cantilevers out away from the column and also cantilevers on either side of the column. Woah, that whole thing is supported by a single column, unbelievable!

Next time you see a cool cantilever, take note of it and send me a picture or its location at I love these fantastic and audacious structural solutions.

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4 Responses

  1. ptb says:

    As much as I love the cantilevered bus shelter, I can’t help but wonder why no one considered the sun’s path through the sky when planning/installing it. What a waste of fun engineering!

  2. dan wohlslagel says:


  3. Emelen says:

    These are really interesting, but *how* does it work? Especially in the case of the billboard, how is it calculated that the weight of the steel tube and the billboard backing can be supported by the vertical post? Thanks!

  4. Will Novak says:

    I’m currently reading “The Fellowship” about FLW and its awesome, I highly recommend it. It goes into interesting detail about the cantilevers FLW used at Fallingwater. FLW was very weak as a structural engineer and they had lost of issues his apprentices had to work out.

    The book is a must read if you like FLW, architecture, cantilevers, crazy mystical dance cults, stories of axe murders or really anything thats crazy/awesome.

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