Types of Arches Used in Construction

There are many kinds of arches because people have been designing them for a long time. They are not always used in regular buildings, but they can add a special charm to certain places.

Different types of arches have an important role in supporting weight from above and spreading it evenly.
This is crucial in architecture because it allows walls to create openings in different areas.
Arches can come in different shapes such as pointed, non-circular, segment, or semi-circle.
You can identify the types of arches by looking at the number of centres, their shape, and the materials used to make them.
These arches are beautiful elements in buildings and can take on various forms. We will describe 33 different types of arches to help you recognize them when you see them.

  1. Art Nouveau Arch
    The Art Nouveau arch is a special type of arch that was popular a long time ago. It was created during a period called Art Nouveau,
    which focused on nature and natural shapes. The arch has beautiful and detailed designs, like flowers and curving lines.
    You can see it in buildings, doors, and decorative things like gates and windows.
    The Art Nouveau arch looks very elegant and artistic, showing the creativity of that time.The Art Nouveau arch is a type of arch that was popular during a special time in history. It was created in a period known as Art Nouveau, which was all about embracing nature and its beauty. The arch has unique designs with lots of intricate details, like flowers and curvy lines.
    You can find it in different places, like buildings, doors, and decorative items such as gates and windows. Types of Arches Used in Construction
    The Art Nouveau arch has a very elegant and artistic appearance, showing the creativity and love for nature that people had during that time. It adds a touch of beauty and charm to any place it is used.
  2. Brick Arch



    Bricks are commonly used as the main building material for three main types of arches. These arches are named after their construction method. Let’s describe each type in easy words:

    1. The Voussoir Arch: In this type of arch, bricks are arranged in a curved shape, like a rainbow. Each brick, called a voussoir, fits together to form a strong and stable structure.
      It’s like putting puzzle pieces together to create the arch shape.
    2. The Corbel Arch: This arch is built by gradually projecting each layer of bricks inward until they meet at the top, forming an arch shape.
      It’s like stacking bricks one on top of the other, but each layer is pushed slightly inward, creating a curved effect.
    3. The Keystone Arch: In this type of arch, the bricks are arranged in an arched shape, and there is a central brick at the top called the keystone. Types of Arches Used in Construction
      The other bricks rest on this keystone, which helps distribute the weight evenly across the arch. It’s like having a special brick at the top that holds everything together.

Axed Brick Arch

This type of arch is created using bricks that are not finely shaped or perfectly smooth. Instead,
they are roughly cut with a brick ax, which gives them a more rustic and rough appearance.
These bricks may have pits and gaps in them, which are filled with lime putty when they are placed in the arch.

To enhance the design, you can use the Flemish bond method. This involves arranging the bricks in a specific pattern. First, you lay a row of bricks with their long sides facing out.
Then, the next row is laid with the shorter ends of the bricks facing out. This alternating pattern creates a repeating design, adding visual interest to the arch.

Gauged Brick Arch

This type of arch is called a gauged brick arch. It is made using soft bricks that are carefully shaped to fit precisely in the arch’s voussoir (the individual bricks that make up the arch).
These bricks are specifically cut to exact specifications using a wire or wet saw. Types of Arches Used in Construction

What makes the gauged brick arch special is the attention to detail in its construction. The person creating the arch takes the time to decorate these bricks, giving them an elegant appearance. The bricks may be embellished with intricate designs or patterns, adding a touch of beauty to the arch.

Rough Brick Arch

Rough brick arches are not considered very attractive, which is why they are often used internally in places where visitors won’t see them.
These arches have a distinct feature where the bricks are thicker on the outer side of the arch and gradually become thinner towards the inner side. Unlike gauged brick arches, the bricks used in rough brick arches are not cut to exact specifications.

While rough brick arches may not have a polished or refined appearance, they are still strong and sturdy.
Their main purpose is to provide structural support rather than being aesthetically pleasing. Therefore, they are commonly used in areas where their visual appeal is less important, such as hidden or utilitarian spaces within a building. Types of Arches Used in Construction

In simpler words, rough brick arches are not very nice to look at, so they are typically used inside buildings where people won’t see them.
The bricks used in these arches are thicker on the outside and thinner on the inside. They are not precisely cut and lack a polished appearance. However, they are still strong and serve their purpose of providing structural support.

Camber Arch

This type of arch is often called a jack arch, and it closely resembles a lintel.
The jack arch is almost flat in shape, but it still uses voussoirs, which are the stones or bricks that create the arch structure, to provide strength. This design mimics a regular arch, even though it appears mostly flat.

The jack arch is created by placing the voussoirs in a specific arrangement to form the arch shape.
While it may not have the traditional curved appearance of other arches, it still relies on the strength of the individual stones or bricks to support the weight above.

In simpler terms, a jack arch is like a flat arch that looks similar to a lintel.
It uses stones or bricks called voussoirs to create its strength and mimic the shape of a regular arch.
Even though it appears flat, it still functions as an arch by distributing weight and providing support.

Catenary Arch

This type of arch resembles a parabolic arch but with a slightly flatter shape towards the bottom. It also rises more quickly than a parabolic arch.
This arch relies on its own curved shape to create compression force. When you hang it or suspend it, the arch slowly gets pulled into shape, and it can support itself when standing.

A great example of this type of arch in the United States is the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
The Gateway Arch is a famous landmark that showcases this particular arch design. It has a unique shape that gradually curves upward, providing strength and stability.
The arch is made to withstand its own weight and external forces, making it a remarkable architectural feat. Types of Arches Used in Construction

In simpler words, this arch looks similar to a parabolic arch but flatter at the bottom and steeper on the sides.
It relies on its own curved shape to create a pushing force, allowing it to support itself when hanging or standing.
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a well-known example of this type of arch, showcasing its impressive design and ability to withstand forces.

Concrete Arch

Concrete is a commonly used material for constructing larger arches, especially those that support interstate overpasses.
The strength of concrete, combined with steel rebar (reinforcing bars) embedded inside it, allows these arches to span over larger distances. The steel rebar provides additional support and prevents the concrete from cracking or collapsing under heavy loads.

To build such arches, the concrete is formed around the steel rebar, creating a framework that adds strength to the structure.
After the concrete is poured, it needs time to harden and cure. This process typically takes about a month, allowing the concrete to become solid and strong.

In simpler terms, concrete is a popular material for making big arches like the ones found in highway overpasses.
The concrete’s strength is enhanced by placing steel bars called rebar inside it. Types of Arches Used in Construction
The rebar helps support the weight and prevents the concrete from breaking. Once the concrete is poured around the rebar, it needs to dry and harden for around a month to become strong and durable.

Fixed Arch

This type of arch is commonly used in the construction of tunnels and reinforced concrete bridges, particularly for shorter spans.
These arches are designed to handle the additional stress caused by thermal contraction and expansion.

This type of arch is called statically indeterminate, which means that the structure’s static equilibrium alone is not enough to determine the reactions and internal forces within the arch.
The thermal changes cause the arch to experience internal stresses, and these additional forces make it more complicated to analyze the arch’s behaviour.

In simpler words, this arch is often used in tunnels and concrete bridges with shorter spans. It can handle the changes in size that occur due to temperature changes.
However, analyzing this type of arch is more complex because it experiences additional internal stresses caused by thermal expansion and contraction.
The forces and reactions within the arch cannot be determined solely by looking at its static balance.

Flat Arch

Flat arches are often overlooked because when people think of arches, they imagine curves. However, flat arches do exist and have their own unique characteristics.
They form the base of a triangle and have a horizontal angle, giving them a flatter appearance compared to curved arches. Types of Arches Used in Construction

Flat arches have a specific rise, which is the height of the arch. For every three feet in width,
the rise of a flat arch is typically around 15 millimeters. This means that for every three feet the arch spans horizontally,
it rises by about 15 millimeters vertically.

These arches are designed to bear lighter loads, such as windows, rather than supporting heavy structures. However, despite their flat shape,
flat arches can bear a significant amount of weight. This is possible due to the presence of an arcade of supports and a colonnade of pillars that provide additional reinforcement and distribute the weight effectively. Types of Arches Used in Construction

In simpler words, flat arches are often unnoticed because they don’t have the curved shape we usually associate with arches.
They have a flat, triangular base and a horizontal angle. They rise by about 15 millimetres for every three feet in width.
Flat arches are suitable for lighter loads like windows, but they can handle heavier weights due to the support provided by multiple pillars and supports.

Florentine Arch

This particular type of arch has a unique design. The inner curved part of the arch is shaped like a half-circle, while the remaining portion resembles a Venetian arch.
This makes it a hybrid arch, combining elements from both styles. It has three centres, which are points located on a line where the arch starts to curve.
These centres help determine the shape and structure of the arch.

Gothic Arch

The Gothic arch was a popular architectural style during the Middle Ages and can be seen in many European cathedrals. It has a distinct appearance with a pointed and sharp top.
The meeting point of both sides of the arch is right in the middle, creating an elegant symmetry. The arch extends downward, giving it a tall and grand look.

Gothic arches are particularly suited for rooms with higher ceilings, as they enhance the verticality of the space. Types of Arches Used in Construction
They are often accompanied by pilasters, which are columns that are embedded into the wall supporting the arch. Pilasters add a decorative element to the design.

If you happen to come across a Gothic arch with a turret or two, you might even spot a gargoyle perched on top.
These mythical creatures add an intriguing and sometimes slightly eerie touch to the overall design.

Hinged Arch

Hinged arches are specifically designed to bridge longer spans. They can have either two or three hinges incorporated into their design.
These hinges serve an important purpose by allowing the arch to rotate at its base. Unlike a fixed arch, which is rigidly connected at the base, a hinged arch has pinned connections that enable movement.

This flexibility is advantageous because it prevents damage to the arch when external forces, such as temperature changes, cause the structure to expand or contract.
Hinged arches can accommodate these thermal fluctuations without putting excessive stress on the arch itself.

It’s worth noting that hinged arches, like fixed arches, are statically indeterminate. Types of Arches Used in Construction
This means that their behaviour under load cannot be fully determined using traditional statics principles alone. However, the indeterminacy of a hinged arch is less severe than that of a fixed arch.

Horseshoe Arch

The horseshoe arch gets its name from its resemblance to the shape of a horseshoe but with a slightly more pronounced curve than a semicircle arch.
This design is widely favoured in architecture for various reasons.

One of the main advantages of the horseshoe arch is its ability to provide architectural provisions. Its distinct shape allows for effective weight distribution and structural stability.
The deep curve of the arch helps to evenly distribute the load placed upon it, making it suitable for supporting significant weight or spanning wide openings.

Furthermore, the horseshoe arch is aesthetically pleasing and often adds a touch of elegance and uniqueness to architectural designs.
It has been widely used throughout history, particularly in Moorish and Islamic architecture, where its distinctive shape is celebrated for its beauty and cultural significance.

Overall, the horseshoe arch’s specific curvature and visual appeal make it a popular choice for architects and designers when creating structures that require both functional and aesthetic considerations.

Lancet Arch

The lancet arch is a type of arch that has a distinctive pointed shape. It originated during the Gothic period and is characterized by its narrow and elongated top.
This arch design can be found in various architectural elements, such as roof structures and windows of churches and cathedrals. Types of Arches Used in Construction

When observing buildings, particularly those from the Gothic era, keep an eye out for the lancet arch. It stands out due to its unique pointed shape.
This arch style is often used in rows or clusters on windows, creating a striking visual effect.

By familiarizing yourself with the lancet arch and its characteristics, you will start noticing its presence more frequently.
It adds a sense of verticality and elegance to architectural designs, contributing to the overall aesthetic appeal of the structures it adorns.

Ogee Arch

The ogee arch is a unique type of arch that features an S-shaped curve. It is formed by two arches that curve in opposite directions, resulting in parallel ends.
This distinctive shape is known as a sigmoid curve.

The ogee arch finds applications not only in architecture but also in various fields such as construction, mathematics, plastic surgery, and clock design. Its elegant and symmetrical design makes it a popular choice in these different disciplines.

The arch consists of two ogees that mirror each other, curving in opposite directions, and meeting at a central point called the apex.
This meeting point adds a focal point and emphasizes the arch’s graceful curves. Types of Arches Used in Construction

During the 13th century, the ogee arch gained significant popularity in English Gothic architecture styles.
It was frequently used in the construction of cathedrals, churches, and other structures of that era, adding a sense of sophistication and grandeur to their designs.

Overall, the ogee arch’s S-shaped curve, parallel ends, and symmetrical composition make it a visually appealing and versatile architectural element, as well as a valuable concept in other fields of study.

Parabolic Arch

The parabolic arch is designed to distribute the load evenly along its entire length. It achieves this by utilizing internal compression forces,
which shape the arch into a parabolic curve. This particular curve gives the arch its characteristic shape.

One important feature of parabolic arches is that they experience the greatest amount of thrust, or outward force, at the bottom of the arch.
This allows the arch to efficiently transfer the weight it supports to the ground or supporting structures.

Compared to other arch types, parabolic arches often exhibit a greater distance between the ends of the arch.
This increased span makes them particularly well-suited for designing bridges, where that can span across wide rivers or valleys.

Parabolic arches are highly popular in bridge construction due to their ability to efficiently distribute loads and resist the forces acting upon them.
Their curved shape allows for the creation of strong and stable structures capable of withstanding heavy loads and supporting transportation routes.

In summary, the parabolic arch is designed to achieve a uniform load distribution by utilizing internal compression forces.
They have a distinct parabolic curve, experience the greatest thrust at the bottom, and are widely employed in bridge design to span long distances.

Pointed Arch

Roman Arch

The Roman arch is one of the most widely recognized and popular types of arches in architecture. Its design is easily identifiable and often associated with classic Roman structures. The Roman arch forms a perfect semicircle, supported by two columns or posts.

Traditionally, the columns of the Roman arch were constructed using stone or wood. However, in more modern times, materials like plasterboards or drywall have been incorporated to create the columns of the arch. This adaptation allows for a more cost-effective and lightweight construction method.

The beauty of the Roman arch lies in its simplicity. The clean lines and symmetrical semicircular shape contribute to its elegant appearance. It is especially well-suited for rooms with higher ceilings, as the arch can accentuate the verticality of the space.

Throughout history, the Roman arch has been widely utilized in various architectural applications, including triumphal arches, aqueducts, and amphitheatres. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its timeless aesthetic appeal and structural efficiency.

In summary, the Roman arch is characterized by its semicircular shape and support from two columns. Its simplicity and elegance make it a recognizable and favoured architectural feature. Whether made of stone, wood, or modern materials, the Roman arch continues to be appreciated for its classic design and ability to enhance spaces with higher ceilings.

Semi-Circular Arch

The semi-circular arch, as its name implies, is an arch that takes the shape of a half-circle. It is characterized by a vertical thrust and a horizontal skewback. The center of the arch aligns precisely with the springing line, which is a horizontal line that runs along the springs and the top of the arch. Types of Arches Used in Construction

Semi-circular arches are commonly found in various architectural settings, including residential houses in suburban areas and commercial buildings. Their widespread use is due to their simplicity and practicality.

The semi-circular arch offers a visually pleasing and harmonious design. The half-circle shape provides a balanced and symmetrical appearance, adding a sense of stability to the structure. It is an efficient architectural element for spanning openings and carrying loads, making it a popular choice in construction.

You can often spot semi-circular arches in entrances, windows, and arcades. They contribute to the overall aesthetics of the building while also serving a functional purpose. Their prevalence in architecture is a testament to their enduring appeal and versatility.

In summary, the semi-circular arch is a half-circle-shaped arch with vertical thrust and a horizontal skewback. It is commonly seen in residential and commercial buildings, offering a visually pleasing design and practical structural support.

Semi-Elliptical Arch

The elliptical arch, as its name suggests, bears a resemblance to an ellipse. It is characterized by its smooth and elongated shape, creating a graceful curve. The elliptical arch can have either three or five centers, depending on the architectural design and the preferences of the architect. Types of Arches Used in Construction

The elliptical arch may not be visually striking or attention-grabbing in its appearance, but it possesses qualities of strength, stability, and reliability. Its sturdy construction allows it to bear significant loads and endure over time.

These arches are often chosen for their dependability and structural integrity. They provide robust support and can be relied upon to withstand various forces and pressures. Their strength makes them suitable for a wide range of architectural applications, including bridges, vaulted ceilings, and doorways.

While the elliptical arch may not stand out for its distinctive appearance, its practical and dependable nature makes it a popular choice for architects and engineers seeking a reliable and efficient arch design.

In summary, the elliptical arch is characterized by its resemblance to an ellipse and can have three or five centres. While it may not be visually remarkable, it is known for its strength, dependability, and suitability for various architectural purposes.

Shouldered Flat (Jack) Arch

The shouldered flat arch, also known as the jack arch, is a popular choice in masonry construction due to its ability to provide essential support in openings. Unlike other arch types, the jack arch does not take the form of a semi-circle. Instead, it is flat and functions similarly to lintels, which are horizontal beams that support the weight above an opening.

In traditional construction, lintels can experience stress and strain when they bend under load. However, jack arches utilize individual masonry elements that are shaped or cut into wedge-like forms, allowing them to efficiently distribute and bear compressive forces. This design optimizes the arch’s ability to withstand pressure and maintain structural integrity.

Jack arches require a significant amount of masonry material on either side of the structure to absorb the increased lateral thrust they generate. This extra masonry helps counterbalance the forces exerted by the arch, ensuring stability and preventing structural failure. Types of Arches Used in Construction

These arches are commonly employed in various masonry projects, including doorways, windows, and other openings. They provide reliable support while minimizing the stress on lintels and contributing to the overall strength of the construction.

In summary, the shouldered flat arch, or jack arch, is a flat arch commonly used in masonry construction to support openings. Its wedge-shaped masonry elements efficiently distribute compressive forces. Jack arches require ample masonry material to absorb lateral thrust and ensure structural stability. They are favored for their ability to provide sturdy support and alleviate stress on lintels in masonry projects.

Stilted Arch

The stilted arch is a unique hybrid design that combines elements of two different arch types. It features a semi-circular arch shape along with two vertical points positioned on the springing line. The center of the arch aligns with a horizontal line that passes through these vertical portions. Types of Arches Used in Construction

The stilted arch derives its name from the vertical points or “stilts” that protrude from the arch. These stilts add a distinct visual element to the arch’s overall design.

The combination of the semi-circular arch and the vertical points gives the stilted arch a balanced and harmonious appearance. The arch’s shape allows for a graceful curve while the vertical elements add vertical emphasis and structural support.

This arch design finds application in various architectural contexts, including doorways, windows, and decorative features. It offers a visually appealing and unique alternative to more traditional arch forms.

In summary, the stilted arch is a hybrid design that combines a semi-circular arch with two vertical points on the springing line. The resulting arch shape exhibits a balance between the curved and vertical elements. The stilted arch is utilized in architecture to create distinctive and aesthetically pleasing features in doorways, windows, and other design elements.

Stone Arch

In this type of arch, known as the voussoir arch, the stones are carefully cut and shaped into tapered wedges called voussoirs. Each voussoir is precisely positioned to form the curved structure of the arch. In contrast, in the past, weaker arches were constructed using random and unshaped stones, often held together with rudimentary cement. These arches, referred to as rubble arches, were structurally weak and are not commonly used today.

Historical rubble arches that have survived are often reinforced and preserved due to their historical significance. However, their load-bearing capacity over an extended period is considered a liability, as they lack the structural integrity and strength of voussoir arches.

The use of voussoirs in arch construction provides several advantages. The carefully shaped stones allow for a more precise fit and distribution of forces, resulting in a stronger and more stable arch. The use of mortar or cement between the voussoirs further enhances the arch’s stability. Types of Arches Used in Construction

Voussoir arches are commonly employed in various architectural structures, such as bridges, cathedrals, and monuments. Their strength and durability make them suitable for supporting significant loads and enduring over time.

the voussoir arch involves shaping stones into tapered wedges called voussoirs to construct a well-fitted and stable arch. This method replaced the use of weaker rubble arches constructed with randomly shaped stones and rudimentary cement. While historical rubble arches may still exist, they are often reinforced due to their limited load-bearing capacity.
The precise construction and use of mortar in voussoir arches contribute to their strength and longevity, making them a preferred choice in architectural applications.

Trefoil Arch

The trefoil arch, also referred to as a three-foiled cusped arch, derives its name from its resemblance to the outline of a trefoil. This arch design incorporates three overlapping rings or lobes, forming a distinctive and visually striking pattern. It is a popular architectural feature in Christian architecture.

The trefoil arch’s defining characteristic is the presence of three foils or lobes, which are curved segments that overlap and create a trefoil shape. The trefoil is a stylized representation of three interconnected leaves or petals. This arch design is often used in windows, doorways, and other decorative elements of Christian buildings, such as churches and cathedrals.

The trefoil arch holds both aesthetic and symbolic significance in Christian architecture. Its graceful curves and intricate detailing add a touch of elegance and beauty to the overall design. Additionally, the trefoil shape has symbolic associations with the Holy Trinity, representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This arch style has been employed throughout history, particularly during the Gothic period, where it became a prominent feature in architectural design. The trefoil arch continues to be appreciated for its unique and visually appealing form, providing a distinct character to Christian structures.

the trefoil arch, also known as a three-foiled cusped arch, features three overlapping rings or lobes in the shape of a trefoil. It is commonly found in Christian architecture, symbolizing the Holy Trinity. This arch design adds beauty and significance to windows, doorways, and other decorative elements in churches and cathedrals, showcasing its enduring appeal and historical importance.

Tudor Arch

The Tudor arch is characterized by its shallow and wide arc, giving it a distinct flattened appearance. It has a greater width than height, resulting in a broad and expansive shape. This arch design is commonly referred to as a four-centered arch.

The Tudor arch is particularly well-suited for rooms with low ceilings and large acoustic spaces. Its wide span allows for the incorporation of load-bearing elements and decorative features in areas where there might otherwise be limited room. This makes the Tudor arch an excellent choice for adding structural and aesthetic enhancements in spaces with specific architectural requirements.

The name “Tudor” arch is derived from the architectural style prevalent during the Tudor period in England (1485-1603). This arch design was commonly used in the construction of buildings from this era, including Tudor-style houses and other architectural structures.

The Tudor arch’s distinctive shape and historical significance make it a popular choice in traditional and period-inspired architecture. Its flattened appearance and broad dimensions contribute to its unique visual appeal, providing a sense of grandeur and spaciousness to the surrounding space. Types of Arches Used in Construction

the Tudor arch is characterized by its shallow and wide arc, resembling a flattened shape. It is a four-centred arch commonly used in rooms with low ceilings and large acoustic spaces. The Tudor arch allows for the integration of load-bearing and decorative elements in areas that require structural enhancements. Its association with the Tudor architectural style further adds to its historical charm and appeal.

Venetian Arch

The Venetian arch is a pointed arch characterized by a deeper crown or central point compared to other arch designs. It typically features four corners that align with the springing line, which is the horizontal line along the spring points of the arch. While the Venetian arch often takes the form of an ogee arch, which has an S-shaped curve, it can also incorporate other arch types.

The distinguishing feature of the Venetian arch is its pointed shape, which adds a sense of verticality and elegance to architectural designs. The deeper crown creates a more pronounced central point, enhancing the arch’s visual impact. This arch design is commonly associated with Venetian architecture, particularly during the Renaissance period.

The Venetian arch can be found in various architectural structures, including doorways, windows, and arcades. Its distinctive shape and aesthetic appeal make it a popular choice for adding a touch of sophistication and grandeur to buildings. The pointed form of the arch also allows for efficient load distribution, making it structurally sound and capable of supporting significant weight.

While the majority of Venetian arches follow the ogee arch design, there can be variations in their shape and curvature. Architects may incorporate other arch types, depending on the specific design requirements and stylistic preferences.

the Venetian arch is a pointed arch characterized by a deeper crown and four corners aligned with the springing line. It is commonly associated with Venetian architecture and is often shaped as an ogee arch. The Venetian arch adds elegance and verticality to architectural designs and is utilized in various applications, contributing to the aesthetic appeal and structural integrity of buildings.

Two-Centred Arch

These arches have two centres and include designs like the Gothic and pointed arches.

Three-Centred Arch

These arches have three centres and include types like Florentine and semi-elliptical arches. They are less common today but are important in renovating period houses and require additional support.

Four-Centred Arch

These arches have four centres and include designs like the Tudor and Venetian arches. They feature a wide and low depressed arch with a pointed top and are popular in English architecture.

Five-Centred Arch

These arches have up to five centres and include designs like the semi-elliptical arch. They are characterized by attention to detail and precise curvature.

Types of Arches Used in Construction