Lecture 3. Vaultness

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Joseph Williams, Brandon Clifford

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A logical progression of vault typologies is as follows—Barrel, Groin, Rib, Liernes, Fan. But while 'progression' implies a direction and single endpoint, our story of Vaultness is cyclical. Pre-Gothic vaults are created by extruding an arch into a continuous surface (barrel) or by extruding in perpendicular directions (groin). Both are constructed in a manner similar to a masonry wall—homogenous stone from end to end. The groin is the intersection cusp between the two extrusions. Gothic architecture transforms this resultant geometry into a generative one. The groin becomes a rib, disrupting the volumetric logic of the pre-Gothic in favor of an incremental aggregation of elements we call ribs. Once the formwork is lowered from the diagonal ribs and rotated to create the transverse ribs, the distance between columns is reduced, clipping the arch geometry to produce the pointed arch. This logic continues to compose the remaining major rib typologies—longitudinal, and wall ribs. These ribs serve as the major structure of the vault, with panels of thinner and often lighter material spanning between. The strangeness of Gothicness emerges by corrupting this logic-driven architecture. Over time, a gradual accretion of rib types like tierceron and liernes ribs emerges to further subdivide spans between major ribs. Nicholas Pevsner defines a lierne as a “short decorative ribs in the upper part of a vault, not linked to any springing point, and having no structural function.” Whether it is for practical or aesthetic reasons, the gradual accretion of more and more ribs in vaults produces a conundrum. How do ribs play a 'supporting' role to the vaults when they occupy more space than the panels? This lecture outlines the various strategies and terms that are associated with different archetypal vault construction methods. It then examines a series of case studies through lenses of gothic evaluation criteria, such as Changefulness, Redundance, and Illusion & Deception. These case studies include… 1. King's College Chapel in Cambridge, Great Britain. Ca. 1443-1515. 2. Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia. Ca. 300 CE. 3. Wells Cathedral, Great Britain. Ca. 1180-1425. 4. Exeter Cathedral. Begun Ca. 1112; rebuilt ca. 1279-1360. 5. Ely Cathedral, Great Britain. Lady Chapel. 1321-49. 6. Nuremburg, S. Lorenz. Choir. Begun 1439. 7. Gloucester Cathedral, Great Britain. Ca. 1140-1437. 8. Bath Abbey, Great Britain. Ca. 1499; 1574-1611; ca. 1860. 9. Treasury of Atreus in Mycenae, Greece. Ca. 1350 – ca. 1250 BCE. 10. Pantheon in Rome, Italy. Ca. 118-25 CE. 11. Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia. Ca. 817-38; ca. 856 (by Abu Ibrahim Ahmed); ca. 1025. 12. Great Mosque of Isfahan, Iran. 11th century, early 12th century, 14th century. 13. Great Mosque of Córdoba, Spain. Maqsura dome added 961-76 under Caliph al-Hakam II. 14. York Cathedral, Great Britain. Chapter House. Ca. 1285-90. 15. Great Mosque of Tlemcen, Morocco. Ca. 1082; rebuilt 1136; dome and minaret ca. 1236. 16. Canterbury Cathedral, Great Britain. Choir reconstructed after 1174; nave rebuilt 14th century. 17. Bourges Cathedral, France. Ca. 1192-1275. 18. Mosque of Bab Mardum in Toledo, Spain. Ca. 999-1000. 19. Ely Cathedral. 11th-14th centuries. Retrochoir, choir, and crossing 14th century. 20. Mosque of Ahmed Shah in Ahmedabad, India. 15th century. 21. Lincoln Cathedral, Great Britain. 11th-13th centuries. The ‘crazy vaults’ of S. Hugh’s choir ca. 1240. 22. Winchester Cathedral, Great Britain. Ceiling of choir. 14th century. 23. Fan vaults at Oxford University, Great Britain. 15th century. 24. Gloucester Cathedral, Great Britain. Cloister with fan vaults. Ca. 1351-64. 25. S. George in Nordlingen. Begun in 1427. Net vaults by Stephan Weyrer, completed 1512. 26. S. Maria De Belem in Lisbon, Portugal. 16th century. 27. Vladislav Hall in Prague, Czech Republic. 1492-1502. Vaults designed by Benedikt Ried. 28. The Alhambra in Granada, Spain. 13th and 14th centuries. 29. Choir vaults of Prague Cathedral, Czech Republic. Begun ca. 1344. Completed after 1356 by Peter Parler. 30. S. Hripsime, Armenia. 7th century. 31. S. Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. 532-62; 10th century (under Trdat). 32. San Lorenzo in Turin, Italy. Ca. 1634. Guarino Guarini. 33. Tomb of Dai Anga in Lahore, Pakistan. Ca. 1650. 34. Abbey of S. Mary in Sherborne, Great Britain. Choir. 15th century. 35. Peterborough Cathedral, Great Britain. Retrochoir. Ca. 1518.

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