The Stone Skeleton: Structural Engineering of Masonry Architecture (Anglais) Broché – 3 juillet 1997
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Winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Books 1996. '... one of the most fascinating books on structural engineering that this reviewer has read in recent years.' S. C. Anand, Choice
'... many clear illustrations complement the scholarly text ... unites and updates much that has been published elsewhere. Excellent for structural engineers, whether students or practitioners.' New Scientist
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Masonry is an assemblage of stones - or bricks, or indeed sun-dried mud (adobe) - classified for convenience with certain distinct labels, as Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, but recognized by engineers as having a common structural action. Lire la première page
Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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I began my little quest by identifying, and then visiting, the principal gothic structures in France (with the help of such great books as Stan Parry's introduction to gothic architecture). I then attempted to identify the key architectural elements common in all these structures. Finally, I researched the historical development of the style all the way from Suger's St. Denis basilica to the emergence of the Renaissance. But all this research left me with some unanswered questions. How do simple forms, such as the pointed arch, the flying buttress, and the barrel vault, actually operate? Why would such forms remain standing up, even when, in some cases, surrounding parts of the building had been destroyed in times of war, or perhaps by stone-robbing to build other structures (for example, structures at Ourscamp, Soissons, and Caen)? For that matter, why even use features such as the flying buttress, when other, simpler forms would suffice?
The Stone Skeleton thoroughly answers these questions, not from an aesthetic or historical view, but from an engineering view, where geometry, stereometry, thrusts, force vectors, the pull of gravity, and the physical properties of concrete and stone are the principal actors of interest. Although it is true that the book does investigate the subject through the lens of engineering (this is the books forte, and why it is such an invaluable addition to the subject), and the volume occupies itself at length with the examination of forces present in concrete and stone structures, most anyone with a moderate mathematical background and the patience to re-read a paragraph until the concepts become clear can profit from this text. In my mind, it is a missing link in the immense genre of gothic architecture texts.
I picture this text to have two related, but nevertheless discrete, audiences. The first is the one described above, the person who is interested in gothic architecture as an historical and aesthetic art phenomenon, and wishes to develop a greater understanding of the structural factors behind such structures. With a little work and patience, the text more than fulfils this need. But the second audience is the actual engineering student or in-practice engineer who wishes to develop a more sophisticated knowledge of the mechanics of concrete and stone structures. In this sense, I could easily see this work used as the textbook for an entire undergraduate or master's level course, or perhaps as a text for a directed independent study, where the end result is a comprehensive understanding of the mechanics of stone structures and the actual operation of the architectural devices present in gothic structures (barrel vaults, groin vaults, domes, arches, pointed arches, piers, flying buttresses, pinnacles, and so on).
I remember at some point in my gothic investigations I came up with a nagging question: why is the lower side of a flying buttress curved? Why not just lay a straight, diagonal beam from the outer wall of the building to the outer buttress pier? Was the curve added for aesthetics? Or was there some important design principle at play? Eager to find the answer and certain that this little fact would be easily discovered, I turned to my mini-library of gothic, only to be repeatedly disappointed (often, tantalizingly so, with texts that ALMOST addressed the question). The answer finally came in Heyman's text, along with many such similar questions. If you, too, are interested in such questions, this book is for you.
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