Gothic Architecture - Gothic Architecture: What You Need To Know

Gothic Architecture: What You Need To Know

The architectural landscape’s evolution over the years has changed significantly. Where once towering structures were built with heavy masonry, expansive stained glass windows, and intricate stonework, the buildings of today lean more towards simplified towers of glass and steel.


While it is true that one is no better than the other for both have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages, and their own uses, it is still interesting to see the designs of the past and how it has, in its own way, contributed to our current architectural styles.

Today, we will take a look at Gothic architecture:


Gothic architecture had its roots in 12th century France and lasted up until the 16th century, with a revival following as recently as in the 18th to 20th centuries. This design was most commonly used on the greater structures of the time, such as in castles, palaces, public halls, and the like. The term – which carried used to carry a negative connotation – was coined in the later Renaissance by the Italians. This was because they associated the style with the Goths, which they viewed as barbarous Germans.

Design theories

Being influenced by Romanesque, French, and Italian culture, gothic design consistently delivered a very distinct brand of visuals. The pointed arch, the ribbed vault, and the flying buttress were its 3 main features, as well as emphasis on elements such as verticality, light, and overall majesty.

Central architectural elements

The Pointed Arch

This defined gothic architecture from the Romanesque. Inspired by structures found in the Near East, this arch can be found wherever a vaulted shape is needed, regardless of whether it’s for form or function. Its newfound use during the time also allowed for a radical change in style, breaking away from old practices that usually relied on the use of massive masonry and small openings.

This was used in all sorts of openings, ranging from windows, to doorways, to arcades, and even to galleries. It had the wondrous effect of accentuating a place’s height, too.

The pointed arch came in numerous variations, such as:

  • The Lancet Arch: it consisted of a long opening with a pointed arch;
  • The Equilateral Arch: where the radius is equal to the width of the opening;
  • The Depressed Arch: which was a four-centered arch wider than its height, almost giving the impression that it had been flattened.

The Ribbed Vault

As opposed to the semi-circular vaults of the Romanesque, the Gothic vault could roof both rectangular and irregular plans. Its adoption also led to the possibility of having significantly expanded windows as the vault had a better handle on weight distribution. It worked as a structural member in transferring loads, which meant that the spaces between them could be filled with a lighter material, thus making the overall structure much lighter.

The Flying Buttress

The outward pressure of the aforementioned vaults transferred to the buttresses, which in turn transferred it to the ground. They were positioned at a distance from the building’s walls and were connected to the vault with arched supports. The application of flying buttresses meant that architects could then build taller and grander.

And build taller and grander they did! Today, current advances in architectural technologies have allowed us to build better – and smarter – than ever before. Even here in the Philippines we now have mixed use design developments, high-rise structures, and all manners of commercial edifices.

It is exciting to think what future architects will be able to do with what we have now.


About the author:

Katrina is your average gal living inside the metro who has passion for writing, travel and photography. She admires nature at its finest and always wanted to become one of them. Dreaming to have the Cinderella life one day, humming with the birds, dancing with the clouds.

pinit fg en rect red 28 - Gothic Architecture: What You Need To Know