Curves of Clay: Mexican Brick Vaults and Domes
The comprehensive knowledge
of materials and their corresponding building techniques has
become a vital necessity, given the backdrop of an ever increasing
demand for living space, particularly housing. Morever, it has
become vitally important to rationalise the building process
in order to achieve the lowest possible cost. This paper aims
to describe, analyse, and formalise some of the fundamental properties
of a popular construction technique for building brick vaults
and domes without any use of scaffolding or centering or any
additional reinforcements whatever. The technique is of collective
invention in Mexico and dates back to the nineteenth century.
Brick vaults, made only of pieces of clay and the intuition of
skillful hands of craftsmen, apart from offering an economical
solution even to this day to the housing problem, possess both
an architectonic and a mathematical beauty.
The "leaning brick" is a popular construction technique
which is at the same time millennary and modern. This technique
is used for building building roofs with bricks without any framework,
making it a very economical way of building. It can be used between
floors of a housing block or to cover an open area such as a
terrace. It is an ingenious technique, not invented by architects
or engineers, but instead the fruit of common knowledge, all
too often ignored or disregarded by professionals and academics.
As a first step towards a mathematical analysis of the vaults
we have formalised their surface as a function of two real variables.
We have explored two cases: the surface of a vault constructed
on a rectangular perimeter, and the surface of a vault constructed
on four circular arches resulting in the section of a sphere.
We have also indicated how to calculate the area of the surface
in both cases.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
The correct citation for
this paper is:
Ramírez Ponce and Rafael Ramírez Melendez , "Curves
of Clay: Mexican Brick Vaults and Domes", pp. 143-154 in
Nexus V: Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams
and Francisco Delgado Cepeda, Fucecchio (Florence): Kim Williams
Books, 2004. http://www.nexusjournal.com/conferences/N2004-Ramirez.html
Conference Abstracts Index
Conference and Exhibit Reports
The Virtual Library