Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Guest Post: Architect Amrita Kangle presents the story of Domes

Standing on the vaulted, sun-washed terrace, the burning day bore mute testimony to my euphoria at being at a place where architectural history had been made.Made and then had stood still, unmoved by time or by the hurrying feet of history, as sentinel to the Emperor who slept in eternal peace beneath its balming shade. The scent of heady jasmine, orange blossom and water on parched ground assailed my nostrils while the majestic dome of Humayun’s tomb soared upwards towards the heavens.

This exquisite mausoleum was designed by the Persian architect Mirakh Mirza Ghiyath, who was commissioned by Humayun’s chief consort Bega Begum and his son Emperor Akbar. It will forever be hailed as the structure that took a giant leap in Mughal architecture and became the forerunner in introducing garden tombs in India.

Made up entirely of rubble masonry and red sandstone, the central marble dome, all white,is a picture in sharp contrast. The design of the dome follows that of a Persian double dome on a high neck drum. The outer layer supports the white marble exterior while the inner portion of the dome gives shape to the cavernous interior.

Image Source HERE

By Samir Luther - originally posted to Flickr as Humayan's Tomb, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

Domes by their very shape have always evoked a response from man. Essentially, a dome is a hemispherical structure which evolved from the arch. It is in effect a collection of arches all sharing the same centreand evolved gradually over the centuries from being solid mounds to ecoming extremely complicated ribbed and fluted structures which conveyed the impression that they were as light as air. Despite their frivolous appearance, domes actually serve a very practical purpose.

In Greek architecture, the stone lintels used to support their flat roofs needed to be supported by columns, which could be at the very most 21 feet apart. As compared to that, a brick arch in the same period could span a distance of 150 feet. The possibilities that this freedom offered to architects and designers was quite mind boggling, since they now had the freedom to design uninterrupted spaces without the intrusion of heavy columns to mar the architect’s visualization of unlimited open space.

One of the first concrete domes to be constructed was on The Pantheon in Rome, built in 126 AD as a temple for all the Roman gods. It had an opening in the centre: the oculus. This famous dome continues to be the largest concrete dome almost two thousand years after it was first built.

The interior of the Pantheon as it appeared in 1734 in a painting by Giovanni Paolo Pannini.

A bright, airy and beautifully simple, large open space illuminated with diffused sunlight, pouring in through the oculus, is the real beauty of the Pantheon. The large open space which enfolded so much of the vast universe within its confines was truly fit to be an abode for the Almighty.


Begun in 1296 and completed just a few years later in 1436,The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the symbol of the city of Florence.

Photo Credit:Originally posted by Geanina HERE 

Designed by Filipo Brunelleschi, this famous dome is named after its creator and mirrors the ideals of the Renaissance period, one of which was to place an almost unlimited trust in man’s abilities. This ideal could not have been proved truer than in Brunelleschi’s dome which is an engineering and a designing marvel.

The cupola has two parallel shells, which are connected by brick spurs. The internal one is the real roofing while the external one made of bricks is just 80cms thick and makes the dome visible from afar. The finished height of the dome is 114 meters. The Duomo is visible from every part of the city and towers over the city as if standing guard while its citizens frolic and have their time in the sun.

Domes, as we can see have continued to fascinate man down the ages. It is as if these lofty, soaring structures have given wing to man’s imagination and every leap in design has been a personal, twofold leap for man in his search for perfection. St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in Delhi (amongst many others) all reinforce the fact that amongst all God’s creatures, it is man alone who He created closest to His own form. He blessed man with the ability to create!

About the author: Amrita Kangle studied Building Design and Architecture at Sir J.J College of Architecture, Mumbai, India. She is the Founder of Amrita and Priyanka Associates, the Award Winning firm in Mumbai. She is a voracious reader and writer of enormously humorous writes on day-to-day life. She lives and works in Princeton, New Jersey, USA as a Realtor while her love affair with bricks and mortar continues to flourish. Check out on her website: . You may also like to look her up on Facebook  Click HERE 

Apart from being a Realtor, she obsesses on, first, her son, and then her husband . And food. The last two are interchangeable she says, depending on her mood.

Click on Tombs to read her post on some of the most exotic resting places for the famous. 

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