Arches, vaults, and domes…three architectural forms that revolutionized architecture in the early years. The romans were the first to adopt these methods in Europe getting inspired by two iconic building civilizations: Egypt and Mesopotamia. Both arches and barrel-vaults were used in historic locations such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Didymaion passages1. However, these forms only became recognized once roman architects adopted them and began building similar structures in the Roman Empire. In Italy, the arch and true vault’s first appearance occur in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. as they perceived in common structures such as drains and tombs. It is not till the third century B.C. that we see more sophisticated arcing structures such as the famous arched gates of Etruria. Slowly, but surely, the construction of arch and vaults metamorphosed into larger cylindrical ceilings called domes. During the Roman Architectural Revolution, the semi-spherical form was used in the construction of various infrastructures such as temples, amphitheaters, baths, etc.
So far we have spoken of arches, vaults and domes as constructional devices, however, none of the materials used to build them were considered. In Egypt and Mesopotamia, most of the architectural creations were made out of sun-dried or baked bricks. The only similar material the romans possessed at that time was dry-jointed or mortared cut stone. Consequently, roman engineers turned to a more
malleable component: concrete.
Its use was very beneficial as it cost next to nothing because most of its main ingredients were abundant in Italy. As a material, concrete was exceptionally strong and reliable, but most of all, architects enjoyed using it because of its user-friendly attributes.
The procedures to produce concrete were straight-forward as a mixture of broken stone and bricks was laid and mixed with liquid mortar which solidified it. An important ingredient was volcanic dust, and that...