Paula Fuentes Gonzalez

Paula Fuentes Gonzalez

Paula Fuentes is Architect by the Polytechnic University of Madrid and has a Master in Building Structures. In 2013 she finished her PhD Dissertation: "Crossed-arch vaults between 10th and 16th centuries. Geometry, construction and structural behaviour." From 2005 to 2007 she worked in an Architecture Office. From 2010 to 2015 she was Assistant Lecturer in the School of Architecture, Department of Building Structures, Polytechnic University of Madrid. From 2015 to 2016 she worked as freelance making technical reports in historical buildings. From October 2016 to April 2019 she was research associate at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg and member of the DFG Research Training Group 1913 "Cultural and Technological Significance of Historic Buildings", where she developed the post-doc research project: "The Art of Vaulting. Design and Construction of Large Vaults in the Mediterranean Gothic".

Her research interests are focused on history of construction, masonry structures and surveying and drawing of architectural heritage. On these subjects she has published several articles in specialized journals and international conferences. 

From May 2019 to April 2021 she was post-doc researcher at the VUB, funded by a Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Individual Fellowship under the supervision of Prof. Wouters. She developed the project "Brick vaults and beyond: the transformation of a historical structural system (1830-1930)". The aim of this project is to study the evolution of vault construction in Belgium in the 19th and 20th centuries, taking into account the changing context of the young industrializing country. 


PhD research

Crossed-arch Vaults between the 10th and 16th Centuries. Geometry, Construction and Structural Behaviour

Date2009 - 2013

Crossed-arch vaults are a singular type of ribbed vaults. Their characteristic feature is that the ribs that form the vault are intertwined, forming polygons, and leaving an empty space in the middle, sometimes covered by a lantern. This dissertation analyses this type of vaults, from the point of view of geometry, construction and structural behaviour. The dissertation belonts to the discipline of Construction History.

The study is organized in three parts. In the first part, a historic overview of crossed-arch vaults has been made for the first time, compiling the different places where they were found. They were built between the 10th to the 20th century. Not too many of the vaults survive. The dissertation covers the period between 10th to 16th century. This period goes from the Ummayad Caliphate to Late Gothic and the transition to Renaissance in Europe, and to the Timurid Dinasty in Asia.

The second part deals with the aforementioned sections: geometry, construction and structural behaviour. Regarding geometry, the different types of layouts are analyzed in space and in horizontal projection. One of the most important aspects is the potential geometrical incompatibilities between ribs. Regarding construction, there is not a unique construction system. This is due to the long period and large geographical spread throughout which these vaults were built. Therefor the vaults are studied according to the materials and techniques. They are classified according to the way of build the intersection between the ribs. In relation to the structural behaviour, some of the most important aspects of ribbed vaults are reviewed. These aspects can be applied to crossed-arch vaults. The framework within the vaults are analysed is defined, that is Limit Analysis of Masonry Structures. The different works about structural behaviour of ribbed vaults are investigated. Finally, the structural analysis of the ciboria in the cathedral of Zaragoza has been carried out, as an example of a structural analysis of this type of vaults.

In the third part, two case studies have been analysed. The first are the vaults of the maqsura in the mosque of Cordoba, built in the middle of the 10th century by caliph al-Hakam the 2nd. These are the first known crossed-arch vaults. The second case is the vault over the transept of the church of San Millan in Segovia, which is probably one of the first Christian examples. Both cases have been surveyed with a laser total station, generating a hypothesis for the geometry. Also, a study if the construction process has been made. It was only possible to visit the extrados in the Chapel of Villaviciosa (one of the vaults in Cordoba). It was measured up using measuring tape and laser distance meter. In this case, we can deduce the thickness of the vault and it has been possible to carrie out a structural analysis.

Alongside these three parts, the dissertation includes some appendices such as a catalogue of the vaults in Spain and north of Africa or maps showing the vaults in different locations (Spain, north of Africa, Europe and Asia) together with their chronology.