What Do Trapezoids Look Like in Real Life?

Some table tops, bridge supports, handbag sides, and architectural elements are all made of trapezoids. Since a trapezoid can’t be three-dimensional, many things that are shaped like trapezoids in real life are only partly made that way. For instance, a table’s top may be in the shape of a trapezoid, but its legs and supports are not.

A trapezoid is a shape that only has two dimensions. It has four straight sides and two parallel sides. Depending on the shape of the trapezoid, the angle and length of the side that is not parallel will be different.

A handbag’s biggest sides are often in the shape of two trapezoids. Each side has parallel top and bottom edges, but the top edge is usually shorter than the bottom edge.

In the same way, a truss bridge usually has several trapezoids along the sides that connect the bottom of the bridge to the structure above it. The steel or aluminium supports look like two trapezoids next to each other. The top and bottom of the bridge are the two parallel sides.

Trapezoids are often used in modern architecture to make unusual shapes, both for the whole building and for individual parts. Also, the windows on an A-frame gabled roof are usually in the shape of a trapezoid. The parallel sides of each shape run from left to right, with the bottom sides being horizontal and the top sides sloping up to make the triangle-shaped gable end.

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.

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