Hidden Above Church Vaults: The Design Evolution of Early Iron Roof Trusses in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Belgium

Romain Wibaut, Ine Wouters, Thomas Coomans

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Abstract

This article sets out to assess the first phase of iron roof construction in Belgian churches, from the 1840s to the 1860s, and the evolution of iron roof structures in this period, through an in-depth analysis of four case studies, located in Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent. The article is based on fieldwork as well as archival and literature research. The cases are contextualized within the architectural, technical, political-economic, and intellectual environment of the time when structural iron was introduced in Belgium: a country that industrialized at an early date, with an iron industry that developed rapidly. The Belgian findings are put into an international perspective. By providing new insights into the early use of iron and the evolution of new construction principles in churches, this study seeks to encourage researchers, architects, and heritage assessors to climb above the vaults of churches and consider the hidden roof structures with greater care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-978
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Architectural Heritage: Conservation, Analysis and Restoration
Volume13
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

Keywords

  • 19 century
  • Belgium
  • cast iron
  • church architecture
  • roof construction
  • wrought iron
  • Construction History

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