Parametric Modeling as a Tool of Analysis and Interpretation of Built Heritage: The Case Study of Complex Baroque Vaults

Parametric Modeling as a Tool of Analysis and Interpretation of Built Heritage: The Case Study of Complex Baroque Vaults

Marco Vitali (Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy), Roberta Spallone (Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy) and Francesco Carota (Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6936-7.ch015


In this chapter are developed some considerations about the heuristic potentialities of parametric digital modeling as a tool for analyzing and interpreting architectural heritage. Observed that the parametric thinking in architecture could be recognized almost from the origin, new parametric modeling software allows to verify the design criteria of the past. On the basis of previous studies on Baroque vaulted atria, this chapter develops, using parametric modeling tools, a real vocabulary of shapes and their possible combinations, suggested by the architectural literature of the time and the survey of about seventy atria in Turin. This method has been tested on the case study of the lunettes dome in the atrium of Palazzo Carignano.
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Parametric digital modeling is today at the center of architectural designers and critics interests.

Increasing potentialities and developments of hardware and software allow to apply parametric methods in the whole design process. But the definition of Architettura Parametrica has an older origin: it was coined by Luigi Moretti in the Forties. Moreover, some examples of parametric thinking were found by several scholars almost since the origin of architectural history.

Previous researches on the complex unitary vaults in the Baroque atria of Turin (Spallone & Vitali, 2017) highlighted that, among over seventy vaulted atria of this kind, many presented recurrent shapes, but not identical. It seemed that, from a relatively reduced number of models, a lot of new shapes, with some variants and different combinations, derived. This was also observed by Augusto Cavallari Murat (Cavallari Murat, 1957), who spoke of a “formula” for interpreting these vaults. The research carried out in 2017 focused on the analysis, interpretation and parametric modeling of homogeneous classes of complex vaulted systems, in particular the so-called Planterian vaults (Vitali, 2017b).

The research presented in this chapter arises as a development of the previous ones: using as a knowledge base one of the most rigorous manual, both on geometric and constructive point of view, the Geometria pratica by Giovanni Curioni (Curioni, 1868), the authors propose and verify by parametric digital modeling a classification of shapes and their possible combinations.

An additional consideration must be made about the definition and description of the formal elements used for the construction of system of vaults. In this regard, within the form-making practices, shape-grammar studies represent a consolidated and systematic methodology that can open interesting research developments. In the case of the digital interpretation and re-construction of complex vault systems, it would be more appropriate to refer to continuous surfaces and their grammar and to a relations’ syntax that connect them.

These latter considerations, which are related to a grammatical and syntactic structure of vaults, not only had a remarkable influence on the parametric model’s construction, but they also offer a valid starting point for the definition of a repeatable methodology that could be used to study several complex vault systems; this aspect could also be one of the most prominent developments of the present research.

Finally, the authors develop a case study referred to built architecture.

While the researches of 2017 concerned the Planterian vaults, as we said above, today’s case study focuses on the Guarinian vault in the atrium of Palazzo Carignano, which could be considered as the first example of star-shaped vault, made by a lunettes vault on an oval plan.

Key Terms in this Chapter

3D Geometric Modeling: It is a modeling method based on points, lines, surfaces and volumes.

3D Modeling: In 3D computer graphics, 3D modelling is the process of developing a representation by means of different techniques (NURBS, solids, polygons, subdivision surfaces, etc.) of any three-dimensional surface of object via specialized software. The product is called a 3D model.

3D Parametric Modeling: It is a modeling method that allows to maintain consistent relationships between elements as the model is manipulated.

Vault: It is an arched structure, usually made of stones, concrete, or bricks, forming a ceiling or roof over a hall, room, sewer, or other wholly or partially enclosed construction.

Star-Shaped Vaults: In the Baroque age, they are masonry vaults, of Guarinian matrix, that trigger the innovative choice to portray the supports along the walls, leaving a large central field free, covered by a unitary vault interrupted by lunettes and groins. They have a generally elliptical or oval layout covered by a main surface cut by radial planes and completed by groins, generating a radio-centric scheme.

Shape Grammar: Invented by Stiny and Gips (1972) , it is an algorithmic system for creating and understanding designs directly through computations with shapes.

Architettura Parametrica: It is a term coined by Moretti in the Forties to define an architecture that considers the parameters as real design variables that the architect uses to respond to the functional requisites of a specific program.

Planterian Vaults: They are masonry vaults so called by Cavallari Murat for their inventor’s name, Gian Giacomo Plantery (1680-1756). They had a great spread in Turin city center in the Baroque age. They are mostly set on rectangular plan and are formed by the main vault in which the axial groins and the angular little vaults are inserted, creating schemes in which the two longitudinal and transverse axes prevail.

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