Design research on new tile vaulting

This on-going research project explores the new design and efficient construction approaches for tile vaulting, made possible thanks to novel form-finding tools and structurally-informed fabrication and assembly processes.

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Traditional tile vaults are typically constructed springing off walls or from straight arches built from support to support on falsework. From these, the vault’s surface can be built in space with minimal or no guidework.

Initial research focused on continuous surface expression, representing fully three-dimensional equilibrium surfaces in compression:

This research has inspired many other projects, of which Bricktopia in Barcelona by MAP13 is the best known

The next phase of research explored the design potential of fully three-dimensional networks of structural ribs. This new structural typology for tile vaults was investigated and tested through two intensive design-build workshops in Australia:

More teaching workshops can be found in our Teaching section.

Be on the look-out for more surprising tile vaulting appearing soon from the Block Research Group!


Block P., Bayl-Smith M., Schork T., Bellamy J. and Pigram D.Ribbed tile vaulting - Innovation through two design-build workshops,FABRICATE 2014,Gramazio, F., Kohler, M. and Langenberg, S. (editors),: 22-29,Zurich,2014 (February).
López López D., Domènech Rodríguez M., Brazo Ramí­rez J. and Block P.Thin-tile vault for the seventh World Urban Forum in Medellin ,Proceedings of the IASS-SLTE 2014 Symposium,Brasilia, Brazil,2014.
Rippmann M. and Block P.Funicular Shell Design Exploration,Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the ACADIA,Waterloo/Buffalo/Nottingham, Canada,2013 (September).
Block P. and Rippmann M.The Catalan Vault – A historical structural principle with a bright future,DETAIL ,5: 528-536,2013 (May).Issue on 'Simple and Complex'.
Davis L., Rippmann M., Pawlofsky T. and Block P.Innovative Funicular Tile Vaulting: A prototype in Switzerland,The Structural Engineer,90(11): 46-56,2012 (November).


ETH Zurich
Institute of Technology in Architecture
Block Research Group
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