Some of the most remarkable features of medieval works of architecture, particularly greater churches and cathedrals, are the ribbed vaults spanning their interior spaces. For over nine hundred years, they have inspired worshippers and visitors alike, their eyes drawn heavenwards by these captivating constructions, prompting the question ‘How did they do that?’ No corresponding texts or drawings survive but digital methods now enable us to propose answers. The Tracing the Past project at the University of Liverpool has spent the past seven years recording and analysing vaults in England. This lecture will introduce the project and share some of its key findings in relation to the church of St Mary, Nantwich.
Dr Alex Buchanan is Senior Lecturer in Archive Studies at the University of Liverpool, having previously been archivist at The Clothworkers’ Company and Lambeth Palace Library in London. Alex’s research is situated at the intersection between archives and architectural history: she is interested in how medieval architecture was designed, communicated and recorded and how it has been studied in the post-medieval period. In 2013 Alex published a monograph on the subject of Robert Willis (1800-1875) and the Foundation of Architectural History, a pioneering architectural historian whose work on vaults inspired both her initial interest in him and the present medieval vaults project, which she co-leads alongside Dr Nick Webb.
Dr Nick Webb is a qualified architect and lecturer at the Liverpool School of Architecture. As a researcher he is interested in how digital tools and techniques can be used as methods to enhance and critique our understanding of historic works of architecture, whether they be existing buildings, were built and then damaged or destroyed, or were not built at all. His research focuses on methods that enable new information to be provided that would not have been possible in a pre-digital context, including digital capture technologies such as laser scanning, three-dimensional digital modelling and analysis, and immersive virtual reality techniques. He is currently co-leading the ‘Tracing the past: analysing the design and construction of English medieval vaults using digital techniques,’ research project alongside Dr Alex Buchanan.