Willis's sources on gothic vault construction

Huerta Fernández, Santiago (2016). Willis's sources on gothic vault construction. In: "Robert Willis. Science, Technology and Architecture in the Nineteenth Century". Textos sobre Teoría e Historia de las Construcciones . Instituto Juan de Herrera. ISBN 978-84-946000-0-5.


Title: Willis's sources on gothic vault construction
  • Huerta Fernández, Santiago
  • Buchanan, Alexandrina
  • Campbell, James W. P.
  • Girón, Javier
  • Huerta, Santiago
Item Type: Book Section
Title of Book: Robert Willis. Science, Technology and Architecture in the Nineteenth Century
Date: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-946000-0-5
Freetext Keywords: construction history engineering architecture vaults history of science architecture
Faculty: E.T.S. Arquitectura (UPM)
Department: Estructuras y Física de Edificación
Creative Commons Licenses: Recognition - No derivative works - Non commercial

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Willis’s article “On the construction of the vaults of the Middle Ages” marked a turning point in the study of Gothic vaults. It is still today the best exposition of the topic, a work to be studied with care by anyone wishing to know in depth how the cross-vaults of the Midle Ages were traced and built. Indeed, the word “construction” has the two meanings: we “construct” (trace) a curve, say, an oval with compass and rule, and we “construct” (build) an oval arch made of stone voussoirs with hammer and chisel on a centering. The article has been cited many times; the splendid plates copied once and again. However, it seems that not many authors have dwelled in depth in its approach and content. It was cited, of course, in the fundamental work by Paul Frankl The Gothic (1960). But Pevsner (1970) in his monograph on Willis remarked that Frankl’s book though an “invaluable study on the history of writings on Gothic architecture” was “weak on Willis”. Pevsner didn’t enter in the details of an “analysis [which] involved substantial technical and geometrical insights” ; however, he qualified it as a “fascinating paper” and reproduced, for the first time in many decades, one of the plates. Middleton’s long paper of 1962 on “The Abbé de Cordemoy and the Graeco- Gothic Ideal” completes Frankl’s book, going into the details of the “Survival of Gothic” and studying “the rational interpretation of Gothic” in France, previous to Viollet-le-Duc. Middleton studies in this context the technical handbooks by De l’Orme, Frézier and others. Middleton does not even mention Robert Willis. However, Willis’s work was known to Viollet-le-Duc, who drew extensively on Willis’s paper for the article “Voûte” in his Dictionnaire (1854) (see also, Prof. Girón’s essay in this book).

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Item ID: 43743
DC Identifier: http://oa.upm.es/43743/
OAI Identifier: oai:oa.upm.es:43743
Deposited by: Profesor S. Huerta
Deposited on: 24 Oct 2016 07:07
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2016 07:07
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