The masonry arch reconsidered

Thomas E. Boothby, Arthur K. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The masonry arch has its origins in the history of building as a functional means of admitting light and air through walls of massive masonry construction. As the construction of buildings evolved and the technology of masonry construction improved, the arch and the vault assumed primary importance in the achievement of large spans, both in the exterior fabric of buildings and the development of interior spaces. The technology of this time kept pace with the programmatic needs of building construction. At the same time, the arch became valued for its symbolic qualities in the architectural treatment of buildings, for example as a means of expressing entrance into a building. As the building profession began to adopt new materials and technologies, the masonry arch fell into disfavor, both as an architectural design element and as a construction technology. Contemporary architectural designers, valuing it primarily for its symbolic qualities, are rediscovering the arch along with many other forms of the past-columns, rotundas, architraves, and moldings. This paper surveys both the contemporary architectural uses of the arch and the current state of knowledge of the structural design of arched masonry structures and calls for the reintegration of the structural and the architectural design of the masonry arch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Architectural Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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