Engineers discover the secret of Italian renaissance domes

Related Articles

A research project by engineers from Princeton University in collaboration with project partners has discovered the secret of self-supporting masonry domes from the Italian renaissance.

The team analysed domes like the duomo at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence Cathedral, and how they were built to be self-supporting without shoring.

The study is the first ever to quantitatively prove the physics at work in Italian renaissance domes and to explain the forces which allow such structures to have been built without formwork typically required, even for modern construction.

 

Previously, there were only hypotheses in the field about how forces flowed through such edifices, and it was unknown how they were built without the use of temporary structures to hold them up during construction.

Sigrid Adriaenssens, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton said: “How can mankind construct such a large and beautiful structure without any formwork–mechanically, what’s the innovation?” she asked. Secondly, “What can we learn?” Is there some “forgotten technology that we can use today?”

The double loxodrome technique is comprised of rows of vertical herringbone bricks that spiral around the dome and are filled in by horizontal field bricks. Effectively, each course of bricks creates a structural element known as a plate-bande or flat arch that wedges interior bricks between the vertical end caps to distribute load throughout the structure. Credit : Vittorio Paris and Attilio Pizzigoni, University of Bergamo; Sigrid Adriaenssens, Princeton University

The detailed computer analysis accounts for the forces at work down to the individual brick, explaining how equilibrium is leveraged. The technique called discrete element modelling (DEM) analyzed the structure at several layers and stages of construction. A limit state analysis determined the overall equilibrium state, or stability, of the completed structure. Not only do these tests verify the mechanics of the structures, but they also make it possible to recreate the techniques for modern construction.

Applying their findings to modern construction, the researchers anticipate that this study could have practical applications for developing construction techniques deploying aerial drones and robots. Using these unmanned machines for construction would increase worker safety, as well as enhance construction speed and reduce building costs.

Another advantage of unearthing new building techniques from ancient sources is that it can yield environmental benefits. “The construction industry is one of the most wasteful ones, so that means if we don’t change anything, there will be a lot more construction waste,” said Adriaenssens, who is interested in using drone techniques for building very large span roofs that are self-supporting and require no shoring or formwork.

Attilio Pizzigoni, professor engineering and applied sciences at the University of Bergamo said: “Overall, this project speaks to an ancient narrative that tells of stones finding their equilibrium in the wonder of reason, from Brunelleschi’s dome to the mechanical arms of modern-day robotics where technology is performative of spaces and its social use.”

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, ENGINEERING SCHOOL

Header Image Credit : Bruce Stokes

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Sungbo’s Eredo – The “Queen of Sheba’s Embankment”

Sungbo’s Eredo is one of the largest man-made monuments in Africa, consisting of a giant system of ditches and embankments that surrounds the entire ljebu Kingdom in the rain forests of south-western Nigeria.

Woolly Mammoths May Have Shared the Landscape With First Humans in New England

Woolly mammoths may have walked the landscape at the same time as the earliest humans in what is now New England, according to a Dartmouth study published in Boreas.

Prehistoric killing machine exposed

Judging by its massive, bone-crushing teeth, gigantic skull and powerful jaw, there is no doubt that the Anteosaurus, a premammalian reptile that roamed the African continent 265 to 260 million years ago - during a period known as the middle Permian - was a ferocious carnivore.

Noushabad – The Hidden Underground City

Noushabed, also called Oeei or Ouyim is an ancient subterranean city, built beneath the small town of Nushabad in present-day Iran.

10 British Iron Age Hill Forts

A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage.

Stabiae – The Roman Resort Buried by Mount Vesuvius

Stabiae was an ancient Roman town and seaside resort near Pompeii, that was largely buried during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius in present-day Italy.

Astronomers Accurately Measure the Temperature of Red Supergiant Stars

Red supergiants are a class of star that end their lives in supernova explosions. Their lifecycles are not fully understood, partly due to difficulties in measuring their temperatures. For the first time, astronomers develop an accurate method to determine the surface temperatures of red supergiants.

Researchers Overturn Hypothesis That Ancient Mammal Ancestors Moved Like Modern Lizards

The backbone is the Swiss Army Knife of mammal locomotion. It can function in all sorts of ways that allows living mammals to have remarkable diversity in their movements.

Popular stories

Ani – The Abandoned Medieval City

Ani is a ruined medieval city, and the former capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom, located in the Eastern Anatolia region of the Kars province in present-day Turkey.

Interactive Map of Earth’s Asteroid and Meteor Impact Craters

Across the history of our planet, around 190 terrestrial impact craters have been identified that still survive the Earth’s geological processes, with the most recent event occurring in 1947 at the Sikhote-Alin Mountains of south-eastern Russia.

The Sunken Town of Pavlopetri

Pavlopetri, also called Paulopetri, is a submerged ancient town, located between the islet of Pavlopetri and the Pounta coast of Laconia, on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece.

Exploring the Avebury Stone Circle Landscape

The area was designated part of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites by UNESCO in 1986, in recognition for one of the most architecturally sophisticated stone circles in the world, in addition to the rich Neolithic, and Bronze age remains found nearby, such as the West Kennet Avenue, Beckhampton Avenue, West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, and Windmill Hill.