Against Gravity

Rory O’Neill

Full Paper
Gothic On the Move
In order to discover and assess broad effects of seismic landscape on the development of Crusader and Cypriot Gothic architectural forms, a new simulation model is being developed that allows realtime integration and parametric permutation of medieval stone-vaulted structures. Methods of modern engineering, such as finite element models and limit analysis, while helpful in preservation efforts of monuments, are still inconclusive in debates concerning the need for flyers, ribs, porte-à-faux (overhang) and other structural devices in static loading. Furthermore, given the complexity of analyzing stone structures, such debates tend to ignore dynamic behaviors of buildings and the possibility that the builders may have added structure to mitigate hazards from wind and earthquake. This paper introduces this new heuristic simulation tool to explore the dynamic behavior of medieval architectural structures set in motion by such natural forces. It also attempts to allow the researcher to approach the mentality of the masons, who relied on iteration of experience and intuition based on a knowledge of how stones go together and how they fall apart. With this interactive tool, the modern researcher and non-engineer can begin to build up an intuitive sense of structural behavior and more rapidly compare buildings across a landscape. This paper also discusses how the model has been instrumental in identifying the geographic distribution in vault springpoint heights that correlates with a seismic hazard map for Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.