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The Art of Structural Engineering: Vaults

Learn about the design of classic and contemporary vaults and discover how structural engineering is a creative discipline and art form.
This course is archived
Estimated 6 weeks
2–3 hours per week
Instructor-paced
Instructor-led on a course schedule

About this course

Skip About this course

In this engineering course you will learn how to analyze vaults (long-span roofs) from three perspectives:

  1. Efficiency = calculations of forces/stresses
  2. Economy = evaluation of societal context and cost
  3. Elegance = form/appearance based on engineering principles, not decoration
We explore iconic vaults like the Pantheon, but our main focus is on contemporary vaults built after the industrial revolution. The vaults we examine are made of different materials, such as tile, reinforced concrete, steel and glass, and were created by masterful engineers/builders like Rafael Guastavino, Anton Tedesko, Pier Luigi Nervi, Eduardo Torroja, Félix Candela, and Heinz Isler.

This course illustrates:
  • how engineering is a creative discipline and can become art
  • the influence of the economic and social context in vault design
  • the interplay between forces and form

The course has been created for a general audience—no advanced math or engineering prerequisites are needed.  This is the second of three courses on the Art of Structural Engineering, each of which are independent of each other. The course on bridges was launched in 2016, and another course will be developed on buildings/towers.

At a glance

  • Language: English

What you'll learn

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  • How to solve for the efficiency of structures using the appropriate formulas
  • How to evaluate a structure within the measures of structural art
  • How economic, social and culture influences structural design
  • How to analyze vaulted forms, such as domes, cantilevers, hypars, and arches

About the instructors

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