IN: Inspiration


An historical structural technique finds its way into a new range of lightweight, Swiss-made concrete floor slabs.


You might have thought the term Gothic was reserved solely for sinister old mansions and ancient cathedrals, but this centuries-old aesthetic has endured. You might look ahead and see it in an archway, or look up and see it in a church steeple. While the Gothic architectural style is usually seen in vestigial form, preserved in historical buildings, it has been updated to suit a more modern visual context.

Thanks to the Block Research Group in the Department of Architecture at ETH Zürich’s, you now have the chance of looking down and seeing Gothic inspiration right under your feet. Researchers from the university have created a floor slab reminiscent of the vaulted ceilings that were commonly incorporated into Gothic structures.

It’s not actually the aesthetics of Gothic architecture that have informed the design of these floor slabs, but rather its structural intricacies. Instead of being fitted with reinforced steel bars, each floor slab features a series of narrow vertical ribs, the kind commonly incorporated into the Catalan vault designs of the 19th century.

PPC Imaginarium

The inclusion of these ribs creates both an arching effect underneath, and a flat surface on top, therefore enabling the slabs to hold up a heavy load. This particular design also minimises construction costs, and reduces production of carbon dioxide thanks to both the absence of steel reinforcement and the more moderate use of concrete in the construction process. Added to all this, the slabs, measuring two centimetres in thickness, are 70% lighter than those made of solid concrete.

Philippe Block, a Professor at ETH Zurich’s Institute of Technology in Architecture, told ArchDaily: “We based our design on historical construction principles and techniques that have since been forgotten.”

It’s certainly wonderful to see that a centuries-old construction method has resurfaced in such an innovative way.

PPC Imaginarium


Block Research Group, Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zürich

Prof. Dr. Philippe Block

Dr. Andrew Liew

Dr. Tom Van Mele

Dr. Tomás Méndez Echenagucia

David López López

Dr. Diederik Veenendaal

Dr. Masoud Akbarzadeh


Photography: ETH Zürich, Nick Krouwel, Anna Maragkoudaki

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