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Tools and Technology in Traditional Architecure: a Study of Thin Tile Vaulting - In Focus: the work of MPhil student M.W. Al-Asali

A study of thin tile vaulting 4  A study of thin tile vaulting 5  A study of thin tile vaulting 1

I was a student on MPhil of Architecture and Urban Planning 2015/2016. The MPhil research project focused on the role of technology in traditional construction. My approach to technology was to find solutions that empower the traditional know-how in building practice in the sense that such practice is closely related to craftsmanship. Technological applications should assist, rather than replace, the builder.

The project focused on the case of thin-tile vaulting which is a traditional construction in the Mediterranean region, mainly in Spain. Thin-tile vaulting has many possibilities not only in places where materials are scarce but also in places where labour can be expensive, and it benefits from technology to present solutions that can best fit its' economic and social contexts.

As part of this project, I built three vaults in the department of architecture in July 2016.
The vaults construction examined the ways with which we can minimise the use of formwork or guidework in vaulting, and consequently reduce the use of materials and cost. By believing that forms and structures are germane to the inherent properties of the materials of they are built with, the construction of the vaults aimed at finding a self-generated structure. The forms of the vaults resulted from, and described by, simple in-situ application of bent bamboo strips. The bending behaviour was calculated so the changes in stiffness of the strip obliged the bamboo to bend in a structural shape of a parabolic arch.

The three vaults were built with the great help of a master and vault maker from Valencia: Salvador Gomis Aviño. During one weekend we were able to build them, and I was able to learn more about thin-tile vaulting from the practice point of view.
Eventually, the wasted materials of formwork and guidework where only the tape we use to fix the bamboo strips together, the strips themselves were returned to the material workshop almost as usable as we first took them.

See more details about the construction at