The vault is designed using Thrust Network Analysis (TNA), a new graphical formfinding tool for exploring three-dimensional compression-only shapes. This new analysis/form-finding method has been introduced, developed and implemented by Philippe Block, under the guidance of Prof. John Ochsendorf, as part of his PhD dissertation at MIT.
For details on the set-up and formulation of the method, we refer to the introductory paper “Thrust Network Analysis: A new methodology for [understanding and exploring] three-dimensional equilibrium”, or Block’s PhD dissertation “Thrust Network Analysis: Exploring three-dimensional equilibrium”.
Thrust Network Analysis was originally developed to assess the safety of historic structures in unreinforced masonry, specifically for understanding and explaining the equilibrium of three-dimensional vaulted structures with complex geometries. TNA allows e.g. the exploration of different assumptions on how forces could be traveling through the structure or the incorporation of structural discontinuities such as cracks, while visualizing the internal forces in the system in a clear manner using comprehensible force diagrams.
Click here for a presentation with a range of examples and more details on the application of TNA for the analysis of vaulted structures in masonry.
Thrust Network Analysis is most powerful for the design of compression-only structures, particularly for structures with self-weight as dominant loading which is the case for masonry structures. The method allows you to explore different force patterns, manipulate the internal distribution of forces by interactively tweaking the force diagrams and define and constrain the design spaces. All these levels of control result in a flexible form-finding method to explore new and exciting shapes for compression-only structures.
By learning from the historic masterpieces in unreinforced masonry, this method now allows new possibilities for this honest and sustainable building material, stone.