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    The high medieval vaults of the chapter house at Westminster Abbey
The high medieval vaults of the chapter house at Westminster Abbey

 

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Margaret Anderson
PMA

The ogive is the single most important architectural innovation of the middle ages. Borrowed from the middle east, the pointed arch replaced the rounded roman archways as the foundation for gothic architecture at the turn of the first millennia (just after 1000). The main function of the ogive is to distribute and transport force evenly from the point of the arch to the ground. Seen here in the vaults of the chapter house of Westminster Abbey, the ogive allowed a preindustrial society without sophisticated math to erect structures in stone at a scale that is impressive even in today's skyscraper age.

maanders@caltech.edu

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