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The Stone Skeleton: Structural Engineering of Masonry Architecture Paperback – 3 Jul 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (3 July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521629632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521629638
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'... this book is a delight for the student of architecture, engineering, history, and art. Visually, this slim volume ... is elegant ... will appeal to a wide readership, both technical and artistic ... The book is clearly written, meticulously illustrated, and beautifully bound. The author's fascination and love of this subject is infectious.' M. A. Erki, Applied Mechanics Review

Winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Books 1996. '... one of the most fascinating books on structural engineering that this reviewer has read in recent years.' S. C. Anand, Choice

'... many clear illustrations complement the scholarly text ... unites and updates much that has been published elsewhere. Excellent for structural engineers, whether students or practitioners.' New Scientist

Book Description

What is the timescale for the settlement and cracking of an old stone building? And how do the elegant flying buttresses of a Gothic cathedral safely transfer thrust to the foundations? These and many other questions are answered in this clear and authoritative guide for structural engineers, practising architects and others involved in the renovation and care of old stone buildings.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Masonry is an assemblage of stones - or bricks, or indeed sun-dried mud (adobe) - classified for convenience with certain distinct labels, as Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, but recognized by engineers as having a common structural action. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By CC on 9 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good book, the matter is well presented and the scientific level is very good, althought it does not go into very much detail from the mechanical point of view.

Not purticularly long but very interesting.

Would definitely recommend to Architects and Engineers.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Kapetas on 14 May 2011
Format: Paperback
The information contained is very good indeed. However, the book is difficult to follow due to the small number of pictures. There are a lot of technical words that even a structural engineer may find it hard to understand.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Waleed Arafa on 3 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an amazing book. I've been looking for something similar for years now. I hope to see more studies of this caliber and focus.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
For Layman AND Engineer Alike 5 May 2007
By Ray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jacques Heyman's text is without doubt one of the most interesting books I've read in the last couple of years. I became interested in gothic architecture after seeing for the first time in person a gothic structure, the St. Eustache church in the Les Halles area of Paris. It was 2001, and this first sight of such a building forced me to hearken back to my undergraduate engineering mechanics classes from a decade earlier. The stunning magnificence of my "find" in central Paris that day eventually drove me to more fully explore the structural operation of this style of architecture which lay behind the dramatic visual appearance of "gothic."

I began my little quest by identifying, and then visiting, the principal gothic structures in France (with the help of such great books as Stan Parry's introduction to gothic architecture). I then attempted to identify the key architectural elements common in all these structures. Finally, I researched the historical development of the style all the way from Suger's St. Denis basilica to the emergence of the Renaissance. But all this research left me with some unanswered questions. How do simple forms, such as the pointed arch, the flying buttress, and the barrel vault, actually operate? Why would such forms remain standing up, even when, in some cases, surrounding parts of the building had been destroyed in times of war, or perhaps by stone-robbing to build other structures (for example, structures at Ourscamp, Soissons, and Caen)? For that matter, why even use features such as the flying buttress, when other, simpler forms would suffice?

The Stone Skeleton thoroughly answers these questions, not from an aesthetic or historical view, but from an engineering view, where geometry, stereometry, thrusts, force vectors, the pull of gravity, and the physical properties of concrete and stone are the principal actors of interest. Although it is true that the book does investigate the subject through the lens of engineering (this is the books forte, and why it is such an invaluable addition to the subject), and the volume occupies itself at length with the examination of forces present in concrete and stone structures, most anyone with a moderate mathematical background and the patience to re-read a paragraph until the concepts become clear can profit from this text. In my mind, it is a missing link in the immense genre of gothic architecture texts.

I picture this text to have two related, but nevertheless discrete, audiences. The first is the one described above, the person who is interested in gothic architecture as an historical and aesthetic art phenomenon, and wishes to develop a greater understanding of the structural factors behind such structures. With a little work and patience, the text more than fulfils this need. But the second audience is the actual engineering student or in-practice engineer who wishes to develop a more sophisticated knowledge of the mechanics of concrete and stone structures. In this sense, I could easily see this work used as the textbook for an entire undergraduate or master's level course, or perhaps as a text for a directed independent study, where the end result is a comprehensive understanding of the mechanics of stone structures and the actual operation of the architectural devices present in gothic structures (barrel vaults, groin vaults, domes, arches, pointed arches, piers, flying buttresses, pinnacles, and so on).

I remember at some point in my gothic investigations I came up with a nagging question: why is the lower side of a flying buttress curved? Why not just lay a straight, diagonal beam from the outer wall of the building to the outer buttress pier? Was the curve added for aesthetics? Or was there some important design principle at play? Eager to find the answer and certain that this little fact would be easily discovered, I turned to my mini-library of gothic, only to be repeatedly disappointed (often, tantalizingly so, with texts that ALMOST addressed the question). The answer finally came in Heyman's text, along with many such similar questions. If you, too, are interested in such questions, this book is for you.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
a wonderfully technical work 20 May 2005
By Simon A. Parkinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
this work covers quite thouroughly the mathematics and mechanics of arches. It spends particular time on construction in the Gothic cathedrals including the barrel vault, cross vault, dome, and flying butress. It is beautifully illustrated and it presents the basic concepts as well as giving a quite extenisive theoretical analysis. A good book for anyone familiar with masonry and an essential for anyone involved in repairing and maintaining Cathedrals and other large stone structures.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Required reading for all who work with stone 3 Feb. 2002
By "robin_thornrose" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For those who are interested in stone as a structural rather than purely decorative building material, this book is an excellent beginning. The focus is on the physics of arches and further to vaults, domes, etc., as this ability to create openings in otherwise solid walls is what makes masonry useful. This is not a book for 'do-it-yourself' types who want a book to help them try their hand at simple gardening stonework. One of the best book I own!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Stone Skeleton 5 Feb. 2002
By "r_vanneman" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A great beginners book on solid stone structures of magnificent proportions. More an engineers book than a layman, the structural aspects of how piling stones on top of each other can withstand bombing, when steel structures can not. I don't think I'll ever walk into a cathedral again without marveling at the fact that the stones don't just fall down! It is amazing information that awes you and gives you a real appreciation for the art of the stone architecture where the structure drove the design - not the other way around.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Not for the layman 9 May 2003
By misterbeets - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There's no doubting this is an authoratative book. It's based on an article that first appeared in a professional journal, and I feel that is its real audience. I found myself in trouble shortly after the introduction, despite a couple of mechanics courses in graduate school. You may have better luck, but I think only practicing structural engineers will be able to enjoy this book.
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