Related projects – Reconstruction of the vaulted ceiling in the chapel of Dresden Castle: Shell structure in unreinforced masonry

The newly constructed vaulted ceiling in the chapel of Dresden Castle. Alike the original late Gothic vaults with looping ribs, it consists of stone ribs and a shell of brick masonry. The latter was realized as a load bearing shell structure in non-reinforced masonry.
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In the chapel of Dresden Castle, the vaulted ceiling was reconstructed 2010-2013 in resemblance of the original late Gothic rib vault with looping ribs from the 16th century. Like the original structures of this kind, it is built with stone ribs and handmade bricks, with a design inspired by the design routines of late Gothic vaults. For 450 years, no vault of this type had been built.
The load-bearing masonry shell in unreinforced brick masonry has been designed upon the complex system of curvilinear ribs at the intrados. Design, development and form-finding has been carried out by an interdisciplinary team, taking in account: the visual appearance, the structural demand of a shell structure according to the equilibrium surface, the malleability of masonry with regular bond pattern, the detailing of the connection between ribs and the shell, as well as the possibility of building the shell free-handed, i.e. without formwork. This aim could be achieved by combining CAD and numerical modelling, physical simulation models, and a full scale prototype.
It has been a particular challenge to actually design and build a new “historical” vault rather than verifying and restoring an existing historical construction. This task has been carried out not by simply compiling historical examples, but by developing a technological solution to meet the requirements of a new structure: we devised a design process that turns out to be very much compatible with what can be observed on the original historical examples. For this reason, this project greatly contributes to our knowledge about historical constructions. The reproduction of such an outstanding building, reenacting both the historical design process and the technical execution, may help recover the immaterial qualities of architectural heritage, in terms of technical knowledge and the building culture, which has been lost through the centuries. Finally, this project also yielded an example of the design of a free form shell structure in unreinforced masonry. As free forms in architecture are of great interest in new architecture, this may demonstrate the actuality of historical structures.

Scientific consultancy on the vault geometry and masonry structure, collaboration in the concept of the masonry shell, model simulations, and supervision of the execution on site: David Wendland, collaboration María José Ventas Sierra.

Project Record
The reconstruction of the chapel in the Dresden Castle, 2010-2013, is a public construction project performed by Staatsbetrieb Sächsisches Immobilien- und Baumanagement (SIB), Dresden (Germany):
Architectural design by J.-U. Anwand (Anwand Architekten)
Structural design by M. Kröning and U. Schröter (KUS Ingenieurbüro für Baustatik und Tragwerksplanung)
Scientific consultancy S. Bürger and D. Wendland
Archaeological and documentary studies by H.-C. Walter
Construction works Dressler Bau GmbH under direction of T. Bauer
Load testing carried out by Prof. Dr.-Ing. M. Curbach, Otto-Mohr-Laboratorium of TU Dresden, based on experiment design by KUS
Hypothesis on the original figuration of the vault developed by S. Bürger and J.-U. Anwand

Sächsisches Staatsministerium der Finanzen (Hrsg.): Das Schlingrippengewölbe der Schlosskapelle Dresden. Altenburg: Verlag Klaus-Jürgen Kamprad, 2013