The Greeks had made
very little use of arches. The Greek Parthenon, for example, was a series
of columns with flat rock slabs on top of the columns. Unfortunately,
that structure made the Parthenon rather vulnerable over the ages.
The Romans, however, developed the arch. They made extensive use of
the arch in portals, bridges, aqueducts, temples and in the famous Roman
Coliseum. In fact, we still use the term Roman Arch to signify a semi-circular
arch. This shape arch is quite strong but as to load-bearing it does
have a weak point at its top; the parabolic-shaped arch as employed
in Venice does not have this weakness and it was employed to beautiful
advantage in the palaces of Venice. The Venetian Arch is more the shape
of a parabola than a semi-circle.
Compared to the Roman Arch the parabolic arch can support more nearly
equal loads at all points. It is also more elegant. We employ the parabolic
Venetian Arch throughout our cave.
The arch permitted the design and construction of the great cathedrals
of Europe. The first great cathedrals were Romanesque and they employed
the Roman Arch. That is why they look a little squatty; they are not
as lofty or beautiful as the more nearly parabolic arch employed by
the Gothic cathedrals which followed. In fact, the added strength of
the parabolic arch permitted architects to build more lofty cathedrals,
to be closer to God.
The structures displayed the inherent beauty of the parabolic shape.
In fact the word architect comes from the word arch. The
classic architects job was to build things using arches. This
doesnt diminish the role of the architect for they have developed
magnificent structures employing the arch.
Proceeding later in history, it is too bad the gold rush miners in California
didnt know about the weight-bearing characteristics of the parabola.
They built many of their mining tunnels in a rectangular shape with
timber across the top. That is why those mining shafts are so dangerous
to enter today. What a difference it would have made on the cost of
construction if the miners had known about the parabola. They would
have needed much less wood and would have had sounder tunnels.