7 Types of Arches in Architecture with Modern Examples

Arches have been used in architecture for centuries, from ancient Roman aqueducts to modern-day skyscrapers. These elegant and functional structures have become an integral part of building design, providing strength, stability, and beauty to architectural masterpieces. 

7 Types of Arch Structures

  1. Flat arches
  2. Round arches
  3. Pointed arches
  4. Segmental arches
  5. Parabolic arches
  6. Horseshoe arches
  7. Triangular arches

Arch structures are made in different shapes and sizes, with each having unique properties and characteristics. 

1. Flat Arches

Flat arches are arches that have really low or no inner curves. They aren’t the best for their functional and load-bearing qualities but are often used for aesthetic purposes and light-load structures in modern buildings.

Residence in New York

Flat Arch in a residence in New York
Flat Arch in a residence in New York

This residence in New York incorporated flat and rectangular arch for interior entryways.

  • The span of the arch is not very long
  • This gives an elegant entrance design for the house.
  • This arch is very light load bearing and is purely for aesthetic purposes.

2. Round Arches

Round arches have a semicircular shape and are widely used in Roman and Gothic style of architecture. They are known for their strength and stability and can span wide openings without additional support. This type of arch has a continuous curve which may or may not support weight from above, depending on the context.

Rounded arches are still popular today, used even in home interiors. They easily bear loads and also look very aesthetic. They are even arranged next to each other, making arcades.

SSAB Flagship Store by Bogdan Ciocodeica Studio

Round arches at SSAB Flagship Store by Bogdan Ciocodeica Studio
Round arches at SSAB Flagship Store by Bogdan Ciocodeica Studio

This new store in Romania provided a new approach to how commercial spaces are more than just glass facades, boards and plain display racks. 

  • The interior offers the buyers a series of visual and sensorial experiences by using unique architectural features like arches.
  • Rounded arches are used for displaying products while also acting as pathways, offering visual connectivity.

3. Pointed Arches

Pointed arches, also known as Gothic arches, have a pointed shape and are prevalent in Gothic and Renaissance architecture. They are known for their beauty and elegance and are often used to create intricate designs and patterns. 

In the modern context, we can often see pointed arches being used in public spaces and as garden arches.

De Petrus Community Center by Molenaar and Bol and vanDillen Architects

Pointed arches at De Petrus Community Center
Pointed arches at De Petrus Community Center

In the Netherlands, an old church dating back to 1884 was reused and redeveloped into a multifunctional center with a library, museum, bar and shops.

  • One of the most striking feature of the new complex is it’s pointed arch spanning more than two floors.
  • The arch gives the space an elegant look while also providing visual connectivity from all floors.

4. Segmental Arches

Segmental arches have a curved shape that is less than a semicircle and are often used in buildings with a curved or sloping roofline. They are known for their versatility and can fit into a variety of architectural styles. 

They are used in interior and in building facades due to their aesthetics and functionality.

Horno de Pan by ERDC Arquitectos

Segmental arches at Horno de Pan
Segmental arches at Horno de Pan

This residence in Ecuador was made mostly of brick and glass due to its local availability. 

  • The facade has a huge segmental arch which is made up of bricks and covered with glass.
  • The arch reaches upto three floors of the building
  • The building materials, brick and glass also provide favorable thermal properties for the project.

5. Parabolic Arches

A parabolic arch has the arch in the shape of a parabola. The curve has an efficient method of load distribution, hence preferred for such spaces. They are commonly used in load bearing structures like bridges.

Spanish Colonial Residence by Jonathan Winslow Design

Parabolic arches at Spanish Colonial Residence
Parabolic arches at Spanish Colonial Residence

Located in Hollywood Hills of California, this residence inspired by traditional Spanish architecture, has a parabolic arch shaped window in its living room.

  • The arches window not only has functional purposes but also provides aesthetic value to the house interior.
  • It provides a good view for the room.

6. Horseshoe Arches

Horseshoe arches have a curved shape that resembles a horseshoe and are often used in Islamic and Moorish architecture. They are known for their beauty and intricacy and can be used to create stunning patterns and designs. 

Riad Dar Zaman in Marrakesh Riad

Horseshoe arch at Riad Dar Zaman
Horseshoe arch at Riad Dar Zaman

This house, inspired by Moroccan architecture, incorporates traditional horse-shoe shaped arches for its openings.

  • The arches act as doorways with the door behind it.
  • It is made of wood and has intricate carvings on them for aesthetic purposes.

7. Tudor Arches

Tudor arches have a flattened, pointed shape and are commonly used in Tudor and Elizabethan architecture. They are known for their unique and distinctive appearance and are often used to create a sense of grandeur and elegance. 

Design of Dining Area of Residence in California 

Tudor arches in a dining area of residence in California 
Tudor arches in a dining area of residence in California 

This residence has an arched entryway to the dining area which is Tudor style.

8. Triangular Arches

Triangular arches are not true arches but instead have two flat stones with an angle of 45 degrees that meet and the center. It was used mostly in Anglo-Saxon architecture.

Bathroom Entrance Design in the USA

Triangular arch in a bathroom entrance design
Triangular arch in a bathroom entrance design

In order to mask the awkward shape of the bathroom, the entrance of the bathroom was designed to match it, giving it a unique feel. 

  • The doors match the shape of the triangular arch

Advantages of Arch Structures

1. Structural Properties

Arches are incredibly strong and stable structures that are able to support immense weight without collapsing. 

  • This is due to the way in which they distribute weight along their curved shape, allowing for a more even distribution of weight compared to a straight beam or column. 
  • This characteristic makes them ideal for load bearing construction.

2. Thrust

One of the unique properties of arches is their “thrust.” Thrust is the horizontal force that is generated by the weight of the arch, and it must be counteracted to prevent the arch from collapsing. 

3. Strength and Stability

Arch structures are able to support large amounts of weight without collapsing. 

  • This makes arch structures a popular choice for large buildings and structures that require long spans, such as bridges and dams.

4. Versatility

Arch structures can be used in a variety of architectural styles, from Gothic cathedrals to modern skyscrapers. 

  • They can be adapted to fit a range of design needs, from small decorative arches to large, imposing structures that dominate the skyline.

5. Beauty and Elegance

Arch structures are often used to create intricate designs and patterns, and can add a sense of beauty and elegance to building design. 

6. Disaster Resistance

Arch structures are often made from durable materials, such as stone or concrete, that are able to withstand harsh weather conditions and the test of time. 

  • This makes them a popular choice for buildings designed in areas prone to earthquakes or hurricanes.

Disadvantages of Arch Structures

1. Complexity and Precision Required in Construction

Arch structures require a high degree of precision and accuracy in construction. Even small deviations from the intended design can result in significant structural issues.

2. Cost and Availability of Materials

Some materials used in arch construction can be expensive or difficult to source, increasing the overall cost of the project.

3. Potential for Collapse if not Properly Supported

Arch structures can collapse if they are not properly supported. This can result in significant damage to the structure and potential harm to people in the surrounding area.

With their unique combination of strength and beauty, arch structures offer a range of benefits to building design. They can be used in a variety of building types, including homes, commercial buildings, and infrastructure projects like bridges and dams.

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