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Catalan Vault Plan


Shards was a one week design build project to better understand the historic Catalan vault while applying today’s advanced technology to create an even more dynamic form.  The vault itself is a powerful example of the possibilities of this construction technique to create new and exciting forms.  One of the main advantages of this technique over similar structures made with poured in place concrete is that heavy form-work is not required.  This vault only required form-work for the initial outer ring, the other forms seen in the building process are purely to ensure the correct curvatures are created.  They are not structural.

The structure itself was first digitally created using RhinoVault.  This allowed for the calculations of forces and possible weak points.  The final shape is a direct result of the required material and form for the most efficient transfer of forces.  This generates an exceedingly authentic structure, completely transparent in its final form.

Collaborators: John Knuaft, Jenny Scarborough, McKenna Martin

Advisor: Sergio Sanabria

Construction Process

The construction process is broken up into three phases: initial form making, plaster layer, and final layer. Initial form-work was cut out using the computer numerical control router, followed by the outer ring of tiles being laid with plaster. The next step was placing the first layer. This was done using plaster because of its quick setting time. The final layer was built using fairly dry, strong mortar. This layer provides the bulk of the strength inherent in the system

The Team

Catalan Vault

The team to build and design this was composed of four students: myself, John D. Knauft, Jenny A. Scarborough, and McKenna S. Martin. 

Faculty advisor: Sergio Sanabria

Shards in use as a bench during the final show. The project still stands as a permanent exhibit within Alumni Hall.

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