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Barrel Vaults in Modern Art and Architecture

When you think about the simple elegance of a barrel vault, you are probably taken back to the imposing architecture of the Romanesque period, where lofty vaulted ceilings were used to make people feel small in the presence of God. The effortless design allowed architects to install spacious ceilings without the need for cumbersome or unsightly support structures. Barrel vaults aren't just relegated to the past, however, they are still popular in contemporary design. Modern artists are as interested in barrel vaults as the architects of the past were.

Several examples can be found in museums across the country. The Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, employs the use of the barrel vault for its south wing, built in the 1970s, where five vaulted chambers house part of the museum's collection. A sixth open vault shields occupants from the sun while providing an unobstructed view of the grounds. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt's installation piece titled On a Blues Ceiling, Eight Geometric Figures: Circle, Trapezoid, Parallelogram, Rectangle, Square, Triangle, Right Triangle, X (1981) features a barrel vaulted ceiling painted blue with geometric figures drawn in crayon. The barrel vault is popular in museum design because it keeps the eye moving from one side of the room to the other.

Barrel vaults are also used in many commercial applications. Vaults with open framework can support large curved glass pieces, making them great for greenhouses and arched entryways. They are also commonly seen in malls, where the large open skylights provided an abundance of natural lighting. The Comerica Bank Tower in Dallas, Texas, built in the 1980s, uses several intersecting barrel vaults to create a skyscraper with an elegant Art Nouveau design. The classic design of the barrel vault is used to create a contemporary appeal in these modern applications.

Modern home and garden design also utilizes the barrel vault. The curving structures are frequently found in hallways, alcoves and entryways. A smoothly finished vault provides contemporary style, while vaults made from brick, wood or open framework add a touch of rustic charm. In the garden, barrel vaulted latticework provides a beautiful framework for growing vines. It is also used in creating outdoor, brick-fire ovens. Inside, similar pass-through ovens are used for both cooking and heating.

Born of the Middle Ages, the barrel vault is a classic architectural fixture with modern design appeal. Its simple, yet effective, design ensures that it will never go out of style. At Archways & Ceilings Made Easy, we make installing a custom-vaulted ceiling or archway simple and affordable with our three-step process. Just measure the area following the instructions on our website and request a free quote. We can have your custom-built archway or ceiling shipped to you within a few days. Our online videos and guides walk you through the installation process to make it as painless as possible. Get started today by requesting a free online quote.

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