The barrel shell is a series of very thin arches that share their compressive strengths with one another. This relationship of compressive forces allow for the barrel shell to support very large amounts of weight as long as the weight is distributed proportionally. However barrel shells with a consistent thickness are very weak against concentrated loads. The barrel shell is formed like the arch and just like the arch it if formed through a series of segmented lines that transfer the compressive loads to the ground, the more segmented lines the greater the fluidity of the curve on the arch or shell.

Barrel Shells can be used in a variety of different applications. Two very different applications are the Kimball Art Museum, and the St. Louis Priory. Formed out of the same building principles but just with different levels of complexity.  The Barrel shell has two common forms, the long shell and the short shell. Either one of these forms can be joined at rigid intersections creating a barrel cross or other radial arrangements.

St. Louis Priory
Kresge Auditorium
Restaurant Xochimilco
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Kimbell Art Museum
St. Louis Priory- St. Louis MO. Architect Felix Candela.

Kresge Auditorium Cambridge Massachusetts Architect Eero Saarinen

Restaurant at Xochimilco, Architect Felix Candela

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth TX, Architect Louis Khan

Precedents

Barrel Shell

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