10 Types of Domes – Exploring Architectural Elegance

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Types of domes stand as iconic symbols of architectural innovation and structural ingenuity across diverse civilizations and periods. These awe-inspiring types of domes, often characterised by their curved and rounded forms, have graced skylines, religious edifices, and civic buildings around the world. From the majestic grandeur of classical domes to the modern marvels of innovative designs, this exploration delves into the various types of domes.

Origin and History of Domes across the globe

The origin and history of domes span diverse cultures and civilizations across the globe. The earliest known domes date back to ancient Mesopotamia, where they made use of mud bricks. The Romans took it forward and became the pioneers in large-scale dome construction. Further, the Byzantine Empire adopted and refined dome architecture in the construction of churches and religious buildings, whereas the spread of Islam made domes integral to mosque architecture across the continents.

In ancient India as well, domes were now very popular in the construction of stupas and temples and also evolved through the Mughal period. The Gothic and Renaissance periods also saw the construction of cathedrals and churches with elaborate dome structures. In the 20th century, better known as the modern century, architects like Buckminster Fuller introduced geodesic domes, which were a lightweight and structurally efficient variation of the dome vault. These dome roofs have now become an integral architectural element or highlight in contemporary structures.

1. Beehive Dome

Types of Domes
Dome houses of Harran (Image Credits: dailysabah.com)

The term “beehive dome” typically refers to a dome-shaped structure that resembles the shape of a beehive. These domes are often associated with ancient architecture, characterised by a series of stacked, horizontal layers, creating a rounded or conical form. Beehive domes were constructed using a technique known as corbelling, so they are also known as corbel domes. The historical use of beehive domes also highlights the resourcefulness of ancient builders in creating stable and aesthetically pleasing structures, keeping environmental efficiency in mind as well.

2. Crossed-arch Dome

The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain (Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

The term “crossed arch dome” typically refers to a dome that incorporates crossed or intersecting arches as a structural or decorative element. This interplay of arches may form stars, quatrefoils, or other symmetrical shapes, contributing to the aesthetic appeal of the structure. In Gothic architecture, crossed-arch domes were common in the roofing of extravagant cathedrals. The use of crossed arches in domes has evolved over time, adapting to different architectural styles and periods.

3. Ellipsoidal Dome

Ellipsoidal Dome at SreeKanteerava Stadium, Bangalore (Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

An ellipsoidal dome is an architectural structure characterised by its elliptical or ovoid shape. The elongated shape can create a sense of gracefulness and visual interest, making ellipsoidal domes suitable for various applications, including religious buildings, event spaces, or exhibition halls. The elongated shape provides an expansive roof structure that can cover significant areas without the need for additional supporting columns. Ellipsoidal domes, with their unique shape and structural advantages, offer architects a creative canvas for constructing aesthetically pleasing and functionally efficient buildings.

4. Geodesic Dome

Shri Siddhartha Institute of Technology (Image Credits: shiksha.com)

The architect and engineer R. Buckminster Fuller popularised geodesic domes in 1948. They are a type of architectural structure with a framework of interconnected triangles that form a spherical or a hemispherical shape. Different combinations and numbers of triangles and their arrangements determine the shape and form. Geodesic domes have various applications, including residential dwellings, greenhouses, exhibition spaces, recreational facilities, and even as temporary shelters in disaster-stricken areas. They have become iconic architectural structures, recognised for their unique appearance and innovative design.

5. Hemispherical Dome

Dome at the Pantheon, Rome (Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

Hemispherical domes are half-spherical architectural structures. This dome style represents the cross-section of a sphere, creating a rounded and symmetrical structure. The hemispherical shape is inherently stable and requires less structural support compared to more complex dome designs. Hemispherical domes had various historical applications, including religious buildings, government structures, and architectural landmarks.

6. Onion Dome

Types of Domes
Onion domes at Saint Basil’s Cathedral (Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

An onion dome is a distinctive architectural element with a bulbous, layered, and tapering shape resembling an onion. At the pinnacle of the onion dome, there is often a decorative finial, sometimes in the form of a cross, a crescent, or another ornament. Traditionally, onion domes are in vibrant colours such as blue, green, gold, or red and made of wood and covered with metal, such as copper or gold leaf. Their distinctive silhouette and historical significance make them a notable feature in the architectural landscape. They are a prominent feature of Eastern European and Russian Architecture.

7. Ribbed Dome

Ribbed dome at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome (Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

A ribbed dome is a type of architectural structure with prominent ribs or arches that radiate from the centre of the dome. These ribs provide both decorative detailing and structural support for the dome. Ribbed domes were a part of various architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance, and Islamic architecture. Ribbed domes can be constructed using various materials, including stone, brick, and concrete. They may represent the ribs of an umbrella, symbolising protection or shelter in religious contexts.

8. Pendentive Dome

Types of Domes
Dome with pendentives (Image Credits: designingbuildings.co.uk)

Pendentive domes are a specific type of architectural dome that rests on pendentives, which are curved triangular sections that transition from a square or rectangular base to a circular dome. These domes are suitable over a space that has a square or polygonal floor plan, like central spaces within basilicas, churches, mosques, and other religious buildings. Pendentive domes often incorporate decorative elements in the transition zones between the pendentives and the dome, like intricate mosaics, frescoes, or calligraphic inscriptions, depending on the cultural and religious context.

9. Monolithic Dome

Types of Domes
Monolithic Dome home in Florida (Image Credits: monolithic.org)

A monolithic dome is a type of structure characterised by a single, seamless shell that serves as both the roof and walls. These domes are known for their structural strength, energy efficiency, and versatility. Monolithic domes are typically constructed using reinforced concrete and are renowned for their resilience against natural disasters, primarily because of their aerodynamic shape. Monolithic domes find applications in various sectors, but monolithic dome homes in residential areas are the most popular.

10. Octagonal Dome

Types of Domes
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem (Image Credits: touristisrael.com)

An octagonal dome refers to a dome structure with an eight-sided base or footprint. Octagonal domes typically rely on supporting elements such as columns, piers, or walls at each corner of the octagon. They can be found in medieval European architecture, Renaissance buildings, and Islamic architecture, where octagonal forms were common. The eight sides create interesting visual lines and angles, contributing to the overall elegance of the structure. Religious buildings, civic structures, and even residential designs have these domes.


The types of domes unveiled here demonstrate the everlasting allure of architectural diversity. These various types of domes, with their soaring curves and intricate details, invite us to ponder not only the craftsmanship involved but also the cultural, religious, and artistic symbolism relevant in the present times as well. A quick question for everyone to ponder: what other types of domes, past or present, capture your imagination?

Content Writing And Research By: Ar. Ishita Jindal

The post 10 Types of Domes – Exploring Architectural Elegance appeared first on The Architects Diary.

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