The Sky in Architecture

Matt Minshall (Member 7,721) shows how architects through the ages have drawn inspiration from the sky.

So much of old and modern architecture seems to be influenced by the clouds. In some cases, it may be deliberate, particularly with some religious structures, where soaring colonnades and high vaulted interiors might metaphorically look up to the heavens.

The interior of the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey (Christian Perez, CC BY-SA 3.0).

But others may be more subconscious. An arched opening seems so much more attractive than a squared one, and might this not be because it resembles a rainbow?

Arches in Ermoupoli Syros, Greece (Matt Minshall, Member 7,721).
Double rainbow spotted over Recanati, Italy by Marco Cingolani (Member 7,635).

The detail and power of a Corinthian column capital appears to reflect the bold image of a Cumulonimbus cloud in all its glory.

A Corinthian style of column at the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens (Image: Rob & Lisa Meehan, CC BY 2.0).
Cumulonimbus spotted over Camano Island, Washington, US by Sherrie Pastron (Member 44,912).

The symmetrical beauty of a fluctus cloud must surely have influenced the design of a Vitruvian Scroll. To be fair, however, there might also be a lowlier watery influence..

The architectural decoration known as a Vitruvian scroll is found in Greek and Roman architecture (Image: image: Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary, 1908).
Fluctus clouds, also known as Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds, spotted over Cumbria, England by John Knowles (Member 10,984).

The ceiling of this incredible Persian mosque is surely too close to the formation of a Lacunosus cloud to be a coincidence.

The Eastern iwan of Jāmeh Mosque of Isfahān in Isfahān city, Iran (Image: Amir Pashaei CC BY-SA 4.0).
Lacunosus clouds spotted over Wilmington, North Carolina, US by Skye Solomon.

I began this casual study as a passing notion, but the more I look the more I find. Is it really too fanciful to see this fanlight as having been influenced by Crepuscular Rays? I certainly don’t think so. Do you?

Mid-nineteenth-century fanlight above a door in University Square, Belfast, Northern Ireland (Image: Albert Bridge, CC BY-SA 2.0).
Crepuscular rays at sunrise spotted over Lleida, Catalonia, Spain by Alexandre Sole (Member 47,690).

3 thoughts on “The Sky in Architecture”

  1. Jane Green avatar Jane Green says:

    Always love seeing how clouds have inspired us throughout the ages. Nicely done! Thank you.

  2. Dave Hall avatar Dave Hall says:

    Love the lacunosus pic.

  3. Kim Abdelazim avatar kimabdelazim says:


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