The Gothic Cathedral and the Skyscraper

Description: Themes: Crafted versus engineered construction; Structura generations form versus aesthetics generates form; Parallels between the Gothic Catehdral and the early tall buildings.

Learning Objectives: Students should be able to: Describe the main components of Gothic Cathedrals; Trace the influence of Gothic Cathedrals to the early tall buildings of Chicago; Compare the scientific, social and symbolic aspects of cathedrals and skyscrapers; Explain the difference between showing structure and expressing structure; Describe the function of the three structural innovations in gothic cathedrals (pointed arches, flying buttresses, ribbed vaults); Describe the role of Viollet-le-Duc in the debate about the relationship of structure and form in Gothic Cathedrals; Explain how an outrigger system adds stability to tall buildings

Keywords masonry, steel, Viollet le Duc, outrigger, flying buttress, pointed arch, ribbed vault, Chicago Fire, Amiens Pinnacle, showing structure vs. expressing structure

Categories: Structural EngineeringPrinceton University, Vaults, Buildings

Teaching Materials


Additional Resources

  • Online Courses 
    • Vaults
    • Buildings (under development)

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