The Evolution of Arches as Lightweight Structures: A History of Empiricism and Science

Neil Burford, Fraser W. Smith, Christoph Gengnagel

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Arches have been an enduring structural form of traditional, Gothic and Renaissance architecture since the Romans brought them to prominence some 2000 years ago. However, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution and the advent of new, high strength, lightweight materials that a step-change was made to the form, span and construction of arches with the introduction of the first lightweight, filigree arch structure at Coalbrookdale in 1779. The advent of the tensile restrained arch occurred shortly thereafter due to the need to provide significantly larger span structures, more efficiently and economically. Over the next 100 years, spurred by the railway construction boom, there followed unprecedented innovation in materials and construction techniques. By the 1930’s, the advent of new steel technologies and simpler methods of analysis meant that the further development and applications for tensile restrained arches rapidly declined. More recently, there has been a gradual re-emergence of the tensile restrained arch in a number of significant architectural projects.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the Third International Congress on Construction History, Cottbus, May 2009
    EditorsKarl-Eugen Kurrer, Werner Lorenz, Volker Wetzk
    Place of PublicationCottbus
    PublisherBrandenburg University of Technology
    ISBN (Print)9783936033311
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    EventThird International Congress on Construction History - Cottbus, Germany
    Duration: 20 May 200924 May 2009


    ConferenceThird International Congress on Construction History
    Internet address


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