You can find one of architecture’s most elemental features in its very nomenclature: the arch. For thousands of years, the arch has formed both the basic structural supports for many buildings and its definitive aesthetic marker in the public imagination. From soaring Gothic cathedrals to ancient Roman viaducts, the arch’s contribution to the world’s greatest architectural monuments cannot be understated. Indeed, it is scarcely imaginable they could have ever been built without its singular load-bearing capacities.
While modern architecture has found other means of support — namely concrete, steel and glass — the arch remains a widely used and instantly recognizable form with which to shape a structure. The following collection of private homes, cooperative residences, sports halls and nursery schools feature a range of semicircular, elliptical arches that provide direct support to the building’s roof in some cases, or simply serve as honorific signifiers of this globally far-reaching structure.
This shot-gun style beach house layers a series of scooped and thrown vaulted spaces through what would otherwise be a straightforward single volume, creating a multidimensional dwelling with varied contours and experiences towards the adjacent water.
Located in the suburbs of Tokyo, this cooperative residence building of 11 residences was designed first by providing residents with skeleton space frame plans from which they could design their homes. The elliptical arches were the primary interior and exterior structural component, while south-facing construction opened up spaces to gardens and sunlight.
The form of this multipurpose sports hall in Australia was inspired by aboriginal canoe shapes propped upside down as elemental shelters. However, the design also took into consideration wind forces, rainfall patterns, site vegetation and minimal maintenance requirements.
This experimental live-work space was built around a disused 19th-century railway line. Taking cues from the mixed-use industrial space of the inner city, the design seeks to demonstrate the ways in which underutilized urban space can be appropriated. The soaring weathered steel outer skin of the structure creates vaulted workspaces and cozy nook living spaces, while strategic cuts let sun in.
This nursery school for children ages zero to five plays with the idea of overlapping arched spaces to encapsulate all the living activities of the children. Wainscoted ceilings of intersecting arches create distinct yet continuous spaces, connected by the materials that span throughout while retaining functional separation.
This wood construction nursery in the mountains of Japan resembles traditional Japanese monasteries in its stark, open layout with minimal furnishings. The elliptical trussed arches overhang the main playroom, while 10-foot-wide eaves let sun dapple inwards.
The long-span arch trusses of this Italian kindergarten are made of traditional wood materials with transparent glass partitions enclosing the exposed spaces between the trusses. The effect is a curiosity-driven space of unseen encounters and constant surprise for the building’s tiny inhabitants.