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13 Types of Domes in Architecture

13 Types of Domes

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A dome is an architectural element that is curved in shape and forms the top half of a sphere. Domes do not need any internal support and can cover a great area while using very little quantity of material.

Domes originated from arches and were initially only used for small buildings such as huts and tombs. However, as construction and design techniques developed, domes became increasingly popular to showcase grand structures such as cathedrals, legislative buildings, and, more recently, leisure buildings such as sports venues.

Dome structures may be built from a wide range of materials, including the more common ones like masonry and concrete, cast iron, wood, and steel. Recently, lightweight materials such as architectural fabrics and cable structures have also been used to create domes. 

Types of Domes

1. Beehive Dome

One of the oldest types of domes, this structure is also called a false dome or corbelled dome. Each successive layer is cantilevered or corbelled toward the center until it reaches the point when all the layers come together at the top. They are not domes in the usual sense since they are made up of horizontal layers of masonry that are slightly cantilevered until they meet in the middle.

An example is the beehive houses of Harran in Southern Turkey.

Fig 1: Beehive Houses of Harran in Southern Turkey

2. Cloister Vault

These domes, also known as domical vaults, maintain a polygonal shape in their horizontal cross-section. It is made up of curved portions that match the different regions of the polygon it rests upon; hence it is not a semi-sphere. They have a constant spring point along a wall from which they arch toward the center.

The most famous example is the Cathedral of Florence in Italy.  

Fig 2: Cloister Vault Dome of Cathedral of Florence in Italy

3. Crossed-Arch Dome

Crossed-arch domes are a kind of ribbed vault that is unique. The ribs that make up the vault are intertwined, making shapes like polygons or stars and leaving space in the middle.

The designs heavily include geometry, with the octagon being one of the most common geometric motifs.

A monumental example that uses this dome is the Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain. 

Fig 3: Cross Arch Dome of Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain

4. Cable Net Domes

A cable net dome is a spatial network of pin-jointed cables and struts, the forces of which are eventually balanced by a perimeter ring beam and supporting walls or columns.

The cable dome is the tensegrity system application that has been the most effective in installing roofs for large areas such as indoor stadiums and arenas.

The O2 Arena in London comprises flat fabric panels supported by a wire net hung in the air.

Fig 4: Cable Net Dome of O2 Arena in London

5. Ellipsoidal Dome

A dome whose bottom cross-section has an ellipse shape is either an elliptical dome or an oval dome. Because of their circular bases and horizontal sections, ellipsoidal domes are considered to be a sort of circular dome. Ellipsoidal domes are generated in the same way as other "rotational domes," which include the rotation of a curve around a vertical axis.

The Sanctuary of Vicoforte in Vicoforte, Italy has the biggest elliptical dome in the world.

Fig 5: Ellipsoidal Dome of Sanctuary of Vicoforte in Vicoforte

6. Geodesic Dome

A geodesic dome is a structure that resembles a sphere and is made of a network of triangles. These triangles create a self-balancing structural framework for the dome using minimal materials.

The structures take their names from geodesics and are derived from polyhedra (such as icosahedrons and octahedrons) and tetrahedra (such as cubes). These types of domes may be constructed with a limited number of simple elements and joints, which allows for an effective resolution of a dome's internal stresses.

Buckminster Fuller located in Los Angeles, California, U.S. can be an excellent example of a geodesic dome.

Fig 6: Geodesic Dome of Buckminster Fuller located in Los Angeles, California, US

7. Hemispherical Dome

Also called "rotational domes," is one-half of a sphere built on a circular ring beam.

Vertical compression occurs along their meridians, whereas horizontal compression occurs only in areas above 51.8 degrees from the top. Below this point, hemispherical domes incur horizontal tension and frequently need buttressing to counteract.

A monumental example of a hemispherical dome is the Stockholm Globe Arena in Sweden.

Fig 7: Hemispherical Dome Stockholm Globe Arena in Sweden

8. Inflatable Dome

An inflatable dome is a self-supporting structure supported by air that is pumped in from the outside. Different-sized inflatable domes are available, and construction may be completed in just a few days. They are especially useful for holding large events.

Since they can provide the illusion of limitless space, inflatable domes are the ideal projection domes. These particular kinds of domes may become an instant gathering area for any number of people.

The world’s largest projection dome in Miami has an inflatable dome.

Fig 8: Inflatable Dome in Miami

9. Monolithic Dome

A monolithic dome is a structure with a thin shell that is made in one piece. The form can be permanent or temporary and may or may not remain with the finished structure. The igloo may be the first type of dome made of a single piece of stone. 

Monolithic domes are used in homes, businesses, and factories all over the world today. Because of their strength, longevity, and cost-effectiveness, the cement, fertilizer, agricultural, power, and mining sectors all employ them for massive storage needs. The first contemporary monolithic dome structure was constructed in Provo, Utah.

Fig 9: Monolithic Dome

10. Onion Dome

A dome bigger than a hemispherical dome with a pointed top and an ogee form is called an onion dome. Their height is often greater than their breadth, and are often gilded or painted in vibrant colors. 

The large and heavy bulging part is a buttress against the tendency of masonry domes to expand at their bottoms. This is because they are normally composed of masonry rather than wood.

They may not have had a single origin since they are found throughout the Near East, Middle East, Persia, and India.

The Taj Mahal is one well-known example of this.

Fig 10: Onion Dome of Taj Mahal

11. Oval Dome

A dome is said to have an oval form if its plan, profile, or both have an oval shape. Combinations of circular arcs, which make their transitions at tangential points, are what make up the geometry that defines this term.

One possible example is the Church of St. Gereon in Cologne, which was built on Roman foundations and has an oval plan.

Fig 11: Oval Dome of Church of St. Gereon in Cologne

12. Saucer Dome

In terms of surface area, these domes are often among the biggest domes, and their profiles are typically shallower than those of other types of domes.

These domes have profiles that are smaller than half a circle in size. They are sturdy but have higher radial thrust since they diminish the dome section under stress. 

An example of a saucer dome is the UFO-shaped event building named Evoluon at Eindhoven, Netherlands, which is a science museum showcasing the future. 

Fig 12: Saucer Dome of Evoluon at Eindhoven, Netherlands

13. Umbrella Dome

Also referred to as a "ribbed," "parachute," or "scalloped" dome, these are divided into curved sections that follow the curvature of the elevation. Radial structural lines that serve as the dome's "ribs" extend downward after the peak.

A dome's "ribs" are the masonry radial lines that go from its crown to its springing. 

The central dome of St. Peter's Basilica located in Vatican City uses this method.

Fig 13: Umbrella Dome of St. Peter's Basilica located in Vatican City


What is a dome?

A dome is an architectural element that is curved in shape and forms the top half of a sphere. Domes do not need any internal support and can cover a great area while using very little quantity of material.

What are the types of domes?

The different types of domes are:
1. Beehive Dome
2. Cloister Vault
3. Crossed-Arch Dome
4. Cable Net Domes
5. Ellipsoidal Dome
6. Geodesic Dome
7. Hemispherical Dome
8. Inflatable Dome
9. Monolithic Dome
10. Onion Dome
11. Oval Dome
12. Saucer Dome
13. Umbrella Dome

Which is the world's biggest dome?

Singapore National Stadium has the world's biggest doom.

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