Types of Vaults in Architecture: Structure and Architecture Style

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Throughout history and timeline of periodic styles, we have witnessed numerous Types of Vaults in Architecture. Vaulted ceilings refer to architectural designs where the ceiling is arched or curved, creating a series of arches, domes, or other curved structures. Permutations of various geometries of their upward curvature that depend on the timeline of a typical architectural style are characteristic feature of these Types of Vaults in Architecture. Vaulted ceilings can take various forms and have now become a strong precedent in the history of modern architecture.

Historical Evolution of Vault Architecture

The evolution of vault architecture spans diverse cultures and historical periods. Beginning in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, corbel arches and simple barrel vaults were part of structures like ziggurats and tombs. Further, the Romans perfected the use of vaults, as seen in structures like the Colosseum, demonstrating their engineering prowess. As seen in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire also adopted vaulted ceilings with intricate mosaic designs.

Meanwhile, in India, Islamic architecture, with its Persian and Byzantine influence, embraced vaulted ceilings with bulbous domes and intricate vaulting, as seen in the Taj Mahal. Taking it forward in the Gothic era, Europe saw the widespread use of ribbed vaults and pointed arches in cathedrals like Notre-Dame in Paris. During the Renaissance period, Filippo Brunelleschi’s design of Florence Cathedral’s dome in Italy also exemplified vaulted ceilings. The Baroque and Rococo periods in Europe witnessed the return of elaborate vaulted ceilings in palaces and churches.

In the 20th century, modern architects experimented with new materials and forms, integrating vaulted elements into contemporary structures.

Types of Vaults: On The Basis of Structure

1. Barrel Vaults

Types of Vaults in Architecture
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Barrel vaults are a type of architectural vault characterised by a continuous, unbroken, and elongated semi-circular or pointed arch. They resemble the shape of a barrel or tunnel, which covers a wide expanse of space, providing structural support and architectural distinction. Barrel vaults are effective in distributing weight and providing structural stability over a wide area. Ideal for interior spaces like long corridors, hallways, or living rooms in residences.

2. Dome Vaults

Types of Vaults in Architecture
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Dome vaults are a distinctive type of architectural feature that involves the use of a rounded or hemispherical structure to cover a space. Domes are present across various architectural styles and historical periods, offering both structural stability and aesthetic grandeur. Dome vault ceilings feature a rounded, often hemispherical-shaped structure. Commonly found in religious buildings, mosques, and palaces, dome vault ceilings serve as central focal points in interior spaces.

3. Groin Vaults

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A groin vault forms from the intersection of two barrel vaults at right angles. This intersection creates a cross-like or X-shaped pattern, and the space where the two vaults meet is known as the groin. Groin vaults offer several structural advantages and have been utilised in various architectural styles throughout history. Groin vaults can cover rectangular, square, or even irregularly shaped spaces, making them a versatile choice in architectural design. Taking inspiration from the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, they are currently suitable for interior spaces with expansive footprints, such as grand halls or churches. They create large and open areas with heightened architectural drama.

4. Ribbed Vaults

Types of Vaults in Architecture
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Ribbed vaults are a type of architectural vault characterised by the use of ribs or arches that extend across the vaulted surface. These ribs not only serve decorative purposes but also provide additional structural support, distributing the weight of the vault and allowing for more intricate designs. From the grand cathedrals of medieval Europe to modern interpretations, ribbed vaults continue to captivate with their beauty and engineering ingenuity. Ideal for churches, cathedrals, or Gothic-inspired structures, rib vaults create visually striking designs.

5. Fan Vaults

Types of Vaults in Architecture
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Fan vaults are a distinctive type of architectural vault characterised by a series of concave ribs spreading out from a central point, creating a fan-like or radiating pattern. This architectural feature is a characteristic feature of English Gothic architecture, known for its intricate and decorative design. Fan vaults reached their height of popularity during the late Gothic period in England, particularly in the 15th and early 16th centuries. Their use in religious or historically-inspired settings imparts a sense of awe and architectural opulence to the interior environment.

6. Cloister Vaults

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A cloister vault is a distinctive type of vaulted ceiling often found in cloisters, which are covered walkways surrounding a courtyard, typically attached to a monastery or cathedral. The cloister vault consists of intersecting barrel vaults, forming a grid pattern that covers the open galleries of the cloister. The ribs of the vaults create an intricate network, adding both structural support and visual interest. Examples of cloister vaults can be found in Renaissance architecture and in European cathedrals and monasteries. Presently, they are ideal for interior spaces like courtyards, grand entrances, or covered walkways.

Types of Vaults: On The Basis of Architecture Style

1. Islamic Vaults (Muqaranas)

Types of Vaults in Architecture
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Islamic architecture is renowned for its intricate and decorative vaulting, known as Muqarnas. These are ornamental elements that resemble honeycomb-like structures. Muqarnas are traditionally crafted from materials such as brick, stone, or wood and covered with plaster or tiles. The geometric patterns in muqarnas also often symbolise the infinite nature of God in Islamic theology. They are found in mosques, palaces, and other significant structures.

2. Egyptian vaults (Nubian Vault)

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The term “Nubian Vault” refers to a specific type of vaulted construction technique that has been traditionally used in Egypt. The vault is constructed using locally sourced materials, such as mud bricks or adobe, along with wooden or bamboo beams for structural support. At the same time, the Nubian vault resembles the shape of a V or U, where adobe or bricks are layered one after the other to form the desired curvature. The Egyptians use this indigenous knowledge to create sustainable and culture-friendly structures.

3. Romanesque Vaults

Types of Vaults in Architecture
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Romanesque architecture, prevalent in Europe from the 10th to the 12th centuries, featured various types of vaults like the barrel, groin, cross-groin, rib vaults, and a few others. They played a crucial role in the development of medieval European architecture, providing both structural support and decorative elements. At the same time, the use of these vaulting techniques allowed for the creation of grand cathedrals and churches like the Durham Cathedral in England and many others.

4. Gothic Rib Vaults

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Gothic architecture, which flourished from the 12th to the 16th centuries in Europe, is renowned for its use of ribbed vaults in cathedrals. Vaults were a formation of a framework of ribs or arches, where the ribs had both structural and decorative purposes. Pointed arches, a hallmark of Gothic architecture, were used in the construction of these ribbed vaults. Gothic architects employed intricate combinations of ribbed vaulting systems to create visually stunning and structurally sound ceilings. These vaults also made the construction of tall and expansive cathedral interiors possible, with an emphasis on verticality and lightness.

5. Byzantine Dome

Types of Vaults in Architecture
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

In Byzantine architecture, domes played a significant role, and various types of dome vaults were employed to create grand and visually striking spaces. Byzantine domes, like the dome at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, are often hemispherical, creating a sense of vastness and height in the interior space. The domes often served both structural and symbolic purposes, representing the celestial dome of heaven and contributing to the overall majesty of Byzantine churches and buildings.

6. Renaissance Vaults

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During the Renaissance, spanning from the 14th to the 17th century, architects revived interest in classical art, culture, and architecture, signalling a departure from the preceding Gothic styles. They designed Renaissance vaults with hemispherical domes, typically situated on drum-like structures. Renaissance architects also employed various other vault types as well, including barrel, groin, cross, and fan vaults. The proportionate design of Renaissance vaults featured stucco ornamentation and frescoes, portraying classical themes or symbolic motifs.

7. Baroque Dome

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In Baroque architecture, vaulted ceilings were largely popular because of their exemplary domes. There were other vaults as well, but the domes in hemispherical, elliptical, or round shapes became a hallmark of this typical style. They featured intricate frescoes, sculptures, and elaborate decorative elements. The use of rich ornamentation and dynamic forms in Baroque vaults contributed to the theatricality and splendour of the architecture of this period.

8. Rococo Vaults

Types of Vaults in Architecture
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

In Rococo architecture, which emerged in the 18th century as a more ornate and playful extension of the Baroque style, vaulted ceilings continued to be a prominent feature. Rococo vaults often featured shell-like or conch-like forms, resembling scallop shells or sea motifs. Rococo vaults were characterised by irregular shapes and arrangements, creating a sense of movement and whimsy. The emphasis on intricate ornamentation and light, playful designs distinguished Rococo architecture from its predecessors.

Conclusion

Types of vaults in interior design and architecture inspire contemporary architects and designers, influencing modern structures and interiors beyond being relics of the past. Moreover, the intricate patterns and symbolic motifs found in various types of vaults in architecture continue to captivate. In a world where innovation often blends with tradition, the enduring allure of various types of vault architecture reminds us that the past can seamlessly integrate with the present. Meanwhile, how do you think the symbolism of various Types of Vaults enhances the atmosphere and aesthetics of modern architecture?

Content Writing And Research By: Ar. Ishita Jindal

The post Types of Vaults in Architecture: Structure and Architecture Style appeared first on The Architects Diary.



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