The hand-in date for the assignment is 11th December 2001. The report should be handed in to the Civil Engineering coursework officer, Lilian Swan ( at the coursework counter on the second floor of Cassie Building. Latest hand in time is 2pm on 11th December 2001. The coursework should include three copies of the Quality Assurance form which is available from me or from Lilian Swan. Ill bring copies to the first lecture. You can print the part-completed version which you will find by clicking here.

 The Coursework assignment is based upon Barcelona's best known building, Antoni Gaudi's "Temple Sagranda Familia", a cathedral started in 1882 and as yet only half constructed - see photograph below. It has become Barcelona's icon and you have a choice of two alternative ways of completing the coursework according to whether or not you have the time and money to visit Barcelona. You can obtain really cheap fares to Barcelona (as little as 40 return) by booking well in advance with easyJet using their on-line discount prices. The booking address is:

The tickets are cheaper if you book well in advance and travel at an unpopular time such as mid-November.

The best way to do the trip might be to take the 10-30am flight from Liverpool, take the bus from outside the arrivals hall at Barcelona Airport to Catalunya Square (500pts), outside the bus stop in Catalunya Square, there is an underground tourist office. They will find you a hotel at whatever reasonable price you can afford. After checking in, take underground Line 2 to Sagrada Familia. There is a convenient mid-afternoon flight home (the aircraft you flew out on turning round).

And here's what you have to do. Gaudi graduated from the Barcelona School of Architecture in 1878 and was appointed Architect for the cathedral in 1882, following the sacking of the original Architect F. P. De Villar. Gaudi needed to develop shapes for the vaults and towers which would ensure that all of the forces were compressive - many medieval cathedrals collapsed as a result of a failure to ensure that the masonry was in compression. He developed the technique of hanging lead shot in small pouches from pieces of string suspended from the ceiling. What he was in fact doing was reversing the concept of an arch. Imagine the suspended string turned upside down. String can take only tension whereas an arch is the opposite: it can take only compression. What Gaudi had done was reverse gravity and by this means he developed the correct shapes for the vaults and towers of his cathedral.


Click here to read the first part of a recent article in New Civil Engineer 23/30th August 2001 describing the building and here to read the second part of the article.

There is a model of Gaudi's strings and lead weights in pouches at the Temple Sagrada Familia. I would like you to visit Gaudi's cathedral (be careful not to confuse Gaudi's structure with the more traditional Gothic cathedral in Barcelona), find the string model, photograph it and produce a 1000 word report with the following headings

History of the Gaudi Cathedral

Structural Forms used in the Nave & Aisles

Structure of the eight main Towers

Use of Tension Model to Develop Structural Shapes

Sagrada Familia - Personal Impressions


Feel free to illustrate your report with sketches/photographs/diagrams.

For those who would prefer to not visit Barcelona, I would like you to undertake an experiment in the Heavy Structures Laboratory in which you are to find the shape of a dome so as to ensure pure compression. You will be able to suspend weights from an overhead board and measure the positions adopted by the suspended lengths of string. Click here to see a short movie showing the lab work in progress. A timetable will be prepared by Bill Cragie, the Structures Technician. If you would prefer to take this option, please e-mail Bill on:

and tell him you are opting to undertake the laboratory project. Those doing so need to submit a 1000 word report with the following headings:

Arches in Architecture and Structural Engineering

Description of Apparatus

Experimental Procedure


Discussion - development of shapes for domes in pure compression