functional and aesthetic possibilities for the use of the arch in architectural construction.

Parabolic, or catenary, arches are structurally superior, and were

English: Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri (lo...

English: Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri (looking east). Photographer: David K. Staub (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

not introduced until the modern age of architecture. The Catalonian

architect Antoni Gaudí is credited with creating the catenary arch, a
more steeply curved form that directs all horizontal thrust down into
the posts or walls and therefore does not need additional systems of
support. Constructing the arch from voussoirs or other individual materials
attached together perpendicular to the curvature of the arch
minimizes the shear stress at the joints, and therefore the thrust is

more effectively directed into the ground, following the line of the
arch. In his Cathedral of Sagrada Familia, begun in Barcelona in
1884 and not yet finished, are a series of catenary arches that recall
the pointed Gothic arch but provide a superior support system. The
St. Louis Gateway Arch, built by Eero Saarinen in the 1960s, is perhaps
the most famous catenary arch. Here, the 630-feet tall arch is
shaped into equilateral triangles, and made of stainless steel over reinforced
concrete.
Finally, the inverted parabolic arch is also employed in the suspension
bridge, where the catenary arch is attached at intervals to create
a parabola. Simple suspension bridges can be found as early as
AD 100 and can be seen in the ancient Inca rope bridges, but modern

suspension bridges developed out of the truss arch bridge to span several
miles. Perhaps the most famous suspension bridge is the Golden
Gate Bridge in San Francisco, built in 1937 based on the original idea
by Joseph Strauss; it was at the time the longest bridge in the world.
New materials and more sophisticated mathematical calculations will
continue to provide more functional and aesthetic possibilities for the
use of the arch in architectural construction.

The semicircular arch continued to be used inEarly Medieval, Romanesque, and then Gothic architecture,archwhen the pointed arch
was introduced. The pointed arch allows for an increase in height and was usually employed in the clerestory windows of a Gothic church
to increase the dimensions of the fenestration and therefore the amount of light that enters the building. Because glass windows are
inherently weaker than a masonry wall, the flying buttress support system was then introduced on the exterior of the Gothic cathedral to
provide the additional support needed for the tall walls. The pointed arch also assumed an important symbolic meaning, as it more explicitly

draws the eye upward toward the heavens.
The pointed arch may have originated in Assyrian architecture, and certainly variations such as the horseshoe arch were widespread
prior to the Gothic period. The horseshoe arch, which appears to be pinched inward at the impost blocks, has traditionally been considered
an Islamic invention, but it first appeared in ancient Indian architecture. Then in western Europe—in Burgos, Spain, for example—
the horseshoe arch is found in Visigothic buildings such as in the entrance doorway of the Church of Santa Maria de Quintanilla
de las Viñas, built by Visigothic Arian Christians in the late seventh.

 

 

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