“…the consummate example of form following function.”

From gobrick.com (January 1995):

Technical Notes 31 – Brick Masonry Arches

Abstract: The masonry arch is one of the oldest structural elements. Brick masonry arches have been used for hundreds of years. This Technical Note is an introduction to brick masonry arches. Many of the different types of brick masonry arches are discussed and a glossary of arch terms is provided. Material selection, proper construction methods, detailing and arch construction recommendations are discussed to ensure proper structural support, durability and weather resistance of the brick masonry arch.
Key Words: arch, brick, reinforced, unreinforced.

In the latter part of the 19th century, an arch was discovered in the ruins of Babylonia. Archeologists estimate that the arch was constructed about the year 1400 B.C. Built of well-baked, cigar-shaped brick and laid with clay mortar, this arch is probably the oldest known to man. The Chinese, Egyptians and others also made use of the arch before the Christian era. Later, more elaborate arches, vaults and domes with complicated forms and intersections were constructed by Roman builders during the Middle Ages.
The brick arch is the consummate example of form following function. Its aesthetic appeal lies in the variety of forms which can be used to express unity, balance, proportion, scale and character. Its structural advantage results from the fact that under uniform load, the invoiced (?inverted) stresses are principally compressive. Because brick masonry has greater resistance to compression than tension, the masonry arch is frequently the most efficient structural element to span openings.
This Technical Note addresses the detailing and construction of brick masonry arches. The common types of brick masonry arches are presented, along with proper arch terminology. Methods of selecting the type and configuration of brick masonry arches most appropriate for the application are discussed. Proper material selection and construction methods are recommended. Other Technical Notes in this series discuss the structural design of brick masonry arches and lintels.

Many arch forms have been developed during the centuries of use, ranging from the jack arch through the circular, elliptical and parabolic to the Gothic arch…An arch is normally classified by the curve of its intrados and by its function, shape or architectural style. Jack, segmental, semicircular and multicentered arches are the most common types used for building arches. For very long spans and for bridges, semicircular arches are often used because of their structural efficiency…”

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