How to build an igloo, and how it’s different from building a raspberry

. 2 min read

Chances are you live in a house made of some material. Chances are that material is not snow. But there is a non-zero a chance that it is, and therefore I feel like I must add a disclaimer - I have never built anything habitable with snow, even in Minecraft. The closest thing I can think of are those snow castles I built in my youth but that’s obviously not the same thing. So if you have built a house made of snow and spot errors in this article, please let me know. (I’m also not a botanist.)

When building an igloo, you start laying snow blocks in a paraboloid. The blocks should be angled in the direction of the block line so the second layer follows naturally and without a clear step change from the first. They should also be slightly angled inwards so the structure will evidently close in at the top, forming a dome. It is desirable that the edges of the block to be laid do not fall in line with those of the block under it and that the block is thick enough to provide insulation yet not too thick as the increase in mass will increase the compression of the lower blocks, accelerate creep and possibly cause cracking and/or structural failure. You should construct a tunnel-like doorway in one place to allow passage of people - but only one, two doorways could easily induce a wind tunnel if misplaced. If you’re interested in calculating the maximum compressive stress at the base, you can find a nice formula on Wikipedia.

To sum it up, an igloo is built from the bottom up, laying blocks that support each other until the last key block at the top closes the structure in for a dome.

Now, I realize raspberries aren’t something you build, but let’s see about it anyway.

A raspberry is constructed of little balls in layers, placed with respect to each other so that no layer is directly on top of the previous but shifted, like in the igloo. However, a raspberry, unlike an igloo, is built from the top down - or from the top up, depending on which way the branch holding fruit is sticking. A raspberry makes the key ball first, and all the others around it, every layer below the previous and a little further from the center, forming a paraboloid dome once the last layer is formed.

Shortly, a raspberry is built from the top down, key ball first, and other balls in layers after it.

(Now, we can argue whether ‘up’ or ‘down’ are the right words and whether I missed the entire point about igloos and raspberries and whether the analogy is idiotic so let me clarify that the point here is the difference between the moments in which the key enclosing element is placed. In igloos it’s at the end. In raspberries it’s in the beginning.)

So are you an igloo or a raspberry? Does your key features get placed as a natural continuity after everything else is in order, or is your entire identity formed around one key feature that defines everything else?