“Einblicke” – Research Insights

The title of the recent ETH Exhibition – “Einblicke” – is an excellent theme for this current phase of research for the Escobedo Vault.  To date, two models have been designed and built – two iterations of the cutting pattern, from which a further analysis may yield a great deal of useful design insights for the vault’s future development.

I was the ‘builder’ for both of these small prototypes, and as a member of the BLOCK research group, I am presently taking on the project of constructibility for this stone pavilion.  My goal will be to translate between modes of digital fabrication (for vault research and prototype construction) and modes of masonry fabrication (in the construction of stone vaults) – to understand the cutting edge possibilities and limitations of the tools for each, and thus to streamline the greatest potentials of Thrust Network Analysis into the construction of full scale vaults.

In the coming posts, I will go into detail in these aforementioned fabrication analyses.  For the time being, however, allow me to first share the work of this latest vault iteration at “Einblicke”, from which we may extract a series of insights for development.

I:  Construction

Model II Construction

II:  Shipping & Unpacking

Model II Unpacking

III:  Assembly


IV:  Exhibition

Model II Exhibition

– Lara


Escobedo Vault at ITA Exhibition at ETH


On September 24, 2009, the exhibition “Einblicke” opens, celebrating the new Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) at the Faculty of Architecture (D-ARCH) of the ETH Zurich. Philippe Block will be showing his research and projects introduction his BLOCK Research Group at ETH. The latest model of the Escobedo Vault will be featured at the exhibition, providing it arrives on time and in tact (i.e. in exactly 103 pieces) from the other side of the Atlantic.

More Info about the  exhibition.

Pretty wires



Stereotomy iteration

Armed with all the vault details observed in Mallorca in mind, this new (much more successful) cutting pattern was developed.


This new cutting pattern is used for the  new 3D-printed model which has been printed and assembled by Lara. The tolerance issues, due to the 3D printing process, observed on the last model, only worsened due to the increased size of the model. We will have to look for more accurate 3D-printers in order to obtain realistic structural models of stone-cut vaults and to consider this approach as a feasible way to prototype complex vaulted assemblies. More about this soon…

Inspired by Mallorcan Stone Masters


Inspired by all the amazing stone work I saw on a visit to Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Balearic Island Mallorca (Spain), I started paying attention to how the voussoirs of these vaults were cut. I did need inspiration to solve the problematic issue in the previous version of the vault, its cutting pattern.


Looking up at all the stunning stone vaults taught me a lot about Stereotomy (= The science or art of cutting solids into certain figures or sections, as arches, and the like; especially, the art of stonecutting –  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Stereotomy). In the previous try, L-shaped pieces were avoided since it was thought that those would appear awkward. In fact, it can be seen on the previous image that these L-shape pieces allow to nicely turn the corner over a groin and visually (and structurally) tie the entire vault together.


This image shows how to nicely morph from a groin vault into an elliptical vault. The stereotomy language/logic shown in this curving, vaulted arcade gives an important clue how we could transition between the different recognizable parts of our vault.

Project is back on track!

Discussing the new evolutions with John Curry at Escobedo Construction’s office in Buda, TX.


First try to turn over the cake: success!

Lara securely boxed in the model, just in time to take it with me on the flight to Austin.


Load-bearing stone, Unreinforced masonry vaulting, Stone form-finding, Structural masonry vault, Free-form masonry, Equilibrium shapes, Funicular design