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Concepts and basic knowledge of vault architecture in landscape design

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Vault architecture is a load-bearing curved structure used to cover the space beneath it. Vaults are typically constructed from blocks of stone, concrete, or other materials stacked on top of each other in a curved shape. Vault architecture has been present in civilizations for a long time and is still used in modern architecture.

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History of Vault Architecture Development

The origins of vault architecture may trace back to traditional bamboo huts, where people used bent branches to create frames and covered them with layers made of natural materials. Gradually, harder materials like stone and wood were used to construct more robust vaults.

The earliest vaults are found in ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. These vaults often took the form of crescents and were used to create spaces like tombs and palaces. During the Roman era, vault architecture reached its peak of development. Romans utilized round, pointed, and crescent-shaped vaults in many of their architectural works, including amphitheaters, temples, and aqueducts.

In the Middle Ages, vault architecture continued to be widely used in churches and other architectural structures. In the 12th century, the Gothic style emerged, and pointed vault architecture became the hallmark of this era. Famous cathedrals like Notre-Dame de Paris and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican employed pointed vault architecture to create magnificent and imposing aesthetics.

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Common Types of Vault Architecture

There are many different types of vault architecture, classified based on shape and construction method. Some of the most common types of vaults include:

Barrel Vault

This is the simplest type of vault, resembling a cylinder cut in half. Barrel vaults are constructed by stacking stone or concrete blocks on top of each other in a cylindrical shape. This type of vault is often used in small and simple architectural structures.

Pointed Vault

As the name suggests, a pointed vault is a vault with a pointed shape, similar to a triangle. This type of vault is often used in Gothic-style architecture. Pointed vaults can be constructed by stacking stone or concrete blocks on top of each other in a triangular shape.

Segmental Vault

Having a semi-circular shape, the segmental vault is often used to cover large and spacious areas. This type of vault can also be constructed by stacking stone or concrete blocks on top of each other in a semi-circular shape, or it can be created by bending iron bars and covering them with a waterproof layer.

Structure and Operation Principles of Vault Architecture

Vault architecture is constructed by stacking blocks of stone or concrete on top of each other in a curved shape. These stone or concrete blocks are called “ribs” and are connected together with layers of mortar or cement. Waterproofing material is applied on top to protect the vault from weathering.

The operating principle of vault architecture is the even distribution of forces acting on points across the vault. When forces act on the vault, the ribs bear the load and transmit it down to load-bearing points on the ground. Thus, the vault can withstand strong forces and keep the space beneath it covered.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vault Architecture


Vault architecture has several advantages, including:

  • Good Load-bearing Capacity: Vault architecture has better load-bearing capacity compared to flat structures. Therefore, it is often used in the construction of large and tall architectural works.
  • High Aesthetic Value: Vault architecture can create beautiful and impressive spaces. Vaults can have various shapes and sizes, from simple to complex, depending on the architect’s vision.
  • Material Efficiency: Due to the curved nature of vault architecture, it can use fewer materials than flat structures to create the same space. This helps save costs and reduce the environmental impact of construction.


However, vault architecture also has some disadvantages:

  • Difficult Construction: Building vault architecture requires high technical expertise and must be done by experienced workers. This increases construction costs and time.
  • Leverage: Vault architecture has a high leverage nature, so careful calculations are needed to ensure the vault’s load-bearing capacity.
  • Limitations in Interior Space Usage: Because vault architecture has a curved shape, the interior space will have limitations in layout and usage.

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Applications of Vault Architecture in Modern Architecture

Vault architecture is still widely used in modern architecture, especially in public and religious structures. Vaults are utilized to create spacious and aesthetically pleasing spaces while also providing an impressive and dignified aspect to the structure.

One of the common applications of vault architecture in modern architecture is in churches. Vaults are used to create sacred and solemn spaces, while also enhancing the structural integrity of the church buildings.

Additionally, vault architecture is employed in public buildings such as theaters, cinemas, or conference centers. Vaults help in creating expansive and airy spaces, while also adding a high level of aesthetic appeal to the structure.

Famous Structures Utilizing Vault Architecture

There are many famous structures around the world that have utilized vault architecture to create their beauty and impressiveness. Below are some examples:

  • Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris: This cathedral was built in the 12th century and is one of the most famous architectural landmarks in France. The pointed vaults of this cathedral reach a height of 33 meters, creating a magnificent sight when viewed from the inside.
  • St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City: Built in the 16th century, this basilica is considered one of the greatest architectural achievements of the Middle Ages. The basilica’s semi-circular vault spans a diameter of 42 meters, creating a vast and solemn space.
  • Sydney Opera House in Australia: Constructed in the 1970s, the Sydney Opera House is an icon of the city. The vaults of the opera house take on the form of shell structures and are covered with thousands of white and green glazed tiles, creating a unique and impressive beauty.

Construction Techniques of Vault Architecture

To construct vault architecture, the following techniques are commonly used:

  • Stacking stone or concrete blocks in a curved shape: This is the most classical technique for building vault architecture. Stone or concrete blocks are stacked on top of each other in a curved shape and bonded together with layers of mortar or cement.
  • Using steel structures: Steel structures have high load-bearing capacity and flexibility in shaping, thus are often used in constructing vault architecture. Steel is bent into the necessary shape and then coated with waterproof materials to create the vault.
  • Utilizing reinforced concrete construction techniques: This technique is commonly used for building large and complex vaults. Concrete is poured into molds with vault-shaped forms and reinforced with steel bars.

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Vault Architecture in Culture and Art

Vault architecture is not only a technical structure but also carries significant cultural and artistic meanings. In various cultures, vault architecture has been used to create iconic and religious structures.

For example, in ancient Greek culture, vault architecture was used to construct religious temples and sacred structures like the Parthenon or the Temple of Olympian Zeus. In Islamic culture, vault architecture has also been utilized to build grand mosques and temples such as the Mosque of Mecca or the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul.

Moreover, vault architecture has been employed in art to create magnificent paintings and sculptures. For instance, during the Renaissance period, vault architecture was used to create ceiling paintings in churches and famous sculptures like Michelangelo’s La Pieta.

The Future of Vault Architecture

With its high aesthetic appeal and strong load-bearing capacity, vault architecture remains a popular architectural choice in the modern era. However, with the advancement of technology and construction techniques, new architectural structures with superior features and aesthetics may emerge.

Nevertheless, vault architecture will continue to exist and be utilized in important architectural constructions such as churches, theaters, or conference centers. With a combination of tradition and innovation, vault architecture may continue to be a symbol of greatness and creative spirit in architecture.

Vault architecture is a type of architecture with high aesthetic appeal and strong load-bearing capacity. From ancient venerable churches to modern constructions, vault architecture has contributed to creating beautiful and impressive landscapes in the world of architecture. Despite its drawbacks such as difficult construction or limitations in interior space utilization, vault architecture remains a symbol of greatness and creative spirit in architecture. With a blend of tradition and innovation, vault architecture may continue to exist and evolve in the future.

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