The double-curvature masonry vaults of Eladio Dieste

Remo Pedreschi, Dimitris Theodossopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Uruguayan engineer Eladio Dieste developed an innovative construction method for wide-span roof structures. Known as Gaussian vaults, their double-curved geometry is based on the catenary resulting in mainly axial compressive forces. Whereas most thin wide-span roofs have been built using concrete, Dieste used brick, and unlike traditional masonry vaults, they are only one brick-layer in thickness. Typically the vaults have a low rise, the span-to-rise ratio is normally 8–10 and buckling is the likely mode of failure. Dieste used the curved surface of the vaults to resist buckling and developed design procedures to ensure their safety. In the present paper a brief background to Dieste's work is presented including his methods of analysis and the application is considered with reference to one of his larger projects, the warehouse at the docks in Montevideo, with a span of 45 m. Through an iterative mathematical procedure, Dieste formulated the critical loads of catenary arches into graphs. The method is compared with a finite-element study, which also considers the elastic deformations under self-weight, asymmetric loading owing to wind and ultimate failure owing to buckling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-11
Number of pages8
JournalStructures and Buildings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007


  • mathematical modelling
  • buildings
  • structures & design
  • brickwork & masonry


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