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Saturday, 18 June 2011

Research - Gothic Architecture

Gothic Architecture is the name of the style of architecture most often associated with buildings of the 40K universe. It is one thing to know this, but another to understand what this means. Unfortunatley, there is no quick and easy answer, not least of all because (historically) Gothic Architecture is subject to many regional variations and "sub-types", such as English Gothic Architecture. I don't want to bore you all with the history of Gothic Architecture, because if you are interested you can find out more for yourselves. It is interesting to know that the term "Gothic" was traditionally used to describe architecture which was originally considered barbaric, or rude (from the root "Goth" which were seen as a vandalistic tribe of Northern Europe). It is probbaly enough to know that prior to the "Gothic" style, was the clean, simple and geometric lines of Romanesque Architecture, and this may give you some idea why the highly decorated "Gothic" style was termed as such.

However, for our purposes it is good to start to understand some of the features associated with Gothic Architecture. This can help us to identify suitable kits to use for our buildings, and importantly can help guide us when building from scratch in order to ensure that our creations convincingly match the theme and style of our other buildings!

The Pointed Arch
Without a doubt, the most defining characteristic of Gothic Architecture is the pointed arch. Aside from its appearance, the pointed arch is structurally much more flexible than the semi circular Romanesque arch. This is because there was not the geometric restriction of a fixed radius or diameter. As such, pointed arches can be used to vault irregular shapes, and importantly junctions between different shapes too. Pointed arches also provided great structural stability (due to the angle of transferance) so that the result is that building features could be much taller.

There are many different types and styles of the pointed arch, such as the Lancet, Equitorial and Depressed arches. Though to be fair, they are probably beyond the confines of this post and the requirements of our building needs.

As a direct result of the benefits of the pointed arch, Gothic buildings are often characterised by great height, and this leads to another characteristic of an emphasis for verticality. This is enhanced by the inherent features of the pointed arch, and further suggested through the use of structural and decorative elements. For instance, vertical columns will often travel from the floor up to the roof, where they may sweep around to form the ribs of the roof vault. Repetition of these details also helps to increase this emphasis.

The pointed arch, used for vaulting, allows for weight to be transferred much more directly to the vertical columns. This means that less vertical structure is required in order to carry the weight, and the result is that more wall space can be given over to window openings! This can further be exagerrated through the use of external features such as flying buttresses (see below). The overall result is that Gothic buildings allow for a lot of light to be let in, much more than in the very solid buildings before.

You can see these internal features and its effects through these 360 interactive views of Notre Dame (Paris). They are definately worth a look!

Flying Buttress
A buttress is a structural element of a wall which is used to support or reinforce it. This will project from the wall in order to support against any lateral forces applied to the wall by the roof (or other structures).

Externally, this often gives the appearance of ribs, and at corners, buttresses can be used in a nnumber of different ways; Angled, Clasping, "French" or Setback. Whilst these buttresses are fully vertically attached to the building, the Flying Buttress is set away from the building, and contains a "flyer" which bridges between the main building and the buttress.

In the image above, you can see the rear of Notre Dame (Paris) with flying buttresses arounf the apse and down the length of the building. The efficiency with which a flying buttress transfers loads means that openings in the main walls can be much larger than in those that use traditional buttresses. Further increasing the emphasis of light within Gothic buildings.

Externally, the Flying Buttress is a feature most commonly associated with the Gothic style, although it should be recognised that not all gothic buildings have flying buttresses.

Many people associated ostentatius decoration with the Gothic Style, and whilst this can be true in part, it is not a defining feature as Gothic Architecture can be very simple. As in the Basilica of Mary Magdalene in Saint-Maximin.

Many of the most lavish and existing examples of Gothic Architecture are religious buildings, and this is probably with good reason. The Gothic style lends itself ideally to the religious themes of light and heaven. It is also a celebration of, and testament to the people and organisations which worship within them. Though the Doges Palace in Venice is a good example of non-religious "Venetian" Gothic. You do have to say, Gothic Architecture is certainly a sight to behold!

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