Thursday, August 12, 2010

New techniques; Lasting Looks

Notre Dame de Paris

I would like to welcome you back to the fascinating and innovative architecture of the Gothic Era. Today I will be sharing with you just two of the many techniques that builders in this time period incorporated into their masterpieces. The flying buttress, also known as an Arc Boutant, was the elemental character of the Gothic style and was used to build many gothic cathedrals like the Chartres and the Notre Dame de Paris (The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy). They are outer surface arch supports that stretch out from a roof, vault, or Nave (the main part of a church,) and downward to a freestanding column or buttress. The function of the flying buttress was to alleviate the load by shifting the weight off of the cathedral walls and onto the buttress. By making the part of the buttress that extended from the building in the shape of a semi arch, it had almost the same weight bearing capabilities as the cathedral walls themselves (Carr). The material’s now being used were much lighter and cheaper. This gave the extended part of the buttress the appearance of flying through the air. Since the weight was now being supported by something other than the cathedral walls, the walls could now be filled with cut outs for large windows that would have otherwise destabilized the walls. These windows would not be used to create more lighting to be able to see, but instead used to generate a more divine and mystifying kind of light, making them more inspiring (Carr). Stained glass was heavily used to augment this atmosphere. The flying buttress allowed for the formation of higher ceiling’s in the gothic era. They were used to stretch arches to heights never imagined. Now, taller more alluring buildings were able to be built.

Elements of Gothic Architecture
The next aspect to this architecture is the ribbed vault. In relation to architecture, vaults by definition are arched structures that are usually made of stones, concrete, or bricks, that form a ceiling or roof over a hall or room ( Groin vaults are comprised of two intersecting barrel vaults, (a simple ongoing vault that is semicircular in shape,) that come together in a V shape. They can be rounded or pointed as in Gothic churches (Carr). Ribbed vaults resemble groin vaults but their surfaces are divided into a web like architecture of diagonally arched ribs that arch and intersect to support a vaulted ceiling surface. They could sometimes have six sections in each bay; this would be called a sexpartite. The ribbed vault helped to lessen the weight of the ceiling and allowed for the vaults weight to be equally distributed throughout the ceiling at hidden points or “ribs” rather than at the thick wall edge (Carr). Since these ribbed vaults, like the flying buttresses, relieved the wall spaces from support and opened them up, windows could be built into the walls as I stated above. Examples of these vaults can be found in buildings such as the Abbaye aux Dames at Caen, Notre Dame in Paris, Chartres, and the Rouen.
Abbaye aux Dames at Caen

Carr, Karen. "Flying Buttresses." Kidipede-History For Kids. 2009. 12 August 2010.
Carr, Karen. (Groin Vaults" Kidipede - History for Kids. 2009. August 12, 2010.
"Flying Buttress." The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy," Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 12 August 2010.

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