Concrete vaults in our house

In 2007 my wife and I were building a second storey for our house. Inspired by Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language, we wanted to build concrete vaults for some of the rooms. These are double vaults (i.e. vaulted on both their length and width) that are built without formwork — the vaults are self-supporting from the beginning.

Steve Kornher from the amazing Flying Concrete web page gave us very good tips about how to build the vaults.

The office and reading alcove

My office is a rectangular room with a small, rectangular reading alcove in one corner. This needs two vaults: a big one for the office itself, and a small one for the reading alcove. You can see them here. The black eyesore is a water tank.

Roof vaults for the office and reading alcove

This is the office as seen from outside its door. It is hard to see the vault as it has a smooth finish and is painted white; it is rather featureless. I will paint it in the future so that you can actually notice it when you enter the room.

Office's ceiling

This is the reading alcove. You can see the start of the painted decoration under its little vault. This draws your eyes upward, which makes you see the vault. Eventually the vault will be painted with some ideas borrowed from the beautiful vaults at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The reading alcove has a window to the West, which makes it get beautiful light in the afternoon — just the right time for relaxing with a book.

Ceiling for the reading alcove

My office also has a small niche which is just sized to fit my music keyboard. It also makes a nice space for CDs, stereo, and music books. This is is the "music niche". You can see the big vault just screaming for decoration...

Niche in the office for music keyboard

The bathroom

The bathroom is large and it also has a vaulted roof. Here is the vault as seen from the top of the house.

Bathroom's roof vault

Again, the inside of the bathroom's vault has not been decorated yet.

Bathroom's ceiling

The stairs

The stairs are built with vaults under the steps. This makes them rather graceful, although they lack decoration to match the pretty flower tiles.



The visitor's room and workshop

Much later, we built a visitor's room and a workshop attached to the house. The visitor's room has a bathroom and a very small alcove destined for a desk or seat. The shape of the room is interesting because this "block" of a building has three things under the same vaulted roof: a passage to the stairs for the workshop, the visitor's room itself with its alcove, and the bathroom.

Roof of the visitor's room

This is the inside of the visitor's room. You can see the desk/seat alcove on the left. The vault curves to accomodate the little alcove, and gives it a cozy feeling.

Ceiling in the visitor's room

Next to the visitor's room is a short passage that leads to the stairs, down to the workshop. The staircase volume required it to have a roof with a very specific shape, as a normal roof would have blocked the view from the rest of the house to the field outside. So, the stair to the workshop is roofed with an arch that then curves as a tunnel which follows the curve of the stairs.

The little arch to the stairs, and the main supporting arch/beam for the tunnel...

Arch for the workshop's stairs

... the tunnel which slopes down from the little arch so that it won't block the view from outside...

Vault over the stairs to the workshop

... and the stairs themselves, thin and strong. A double-edged sword from vaulted stairs is that you can use the space under the stairs to store all sorts of junk.

Stairs to the workshop