Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Architectural Photography

Architectural photography by Ewa Meyze

Very often when the average person looks at a piece of abstract art the first words from their lips are: "What is it?" Then in response, people like me who profess to know something about art are left doing a lot of conjecturing or have to admit in all honesty that we don't know what it is either. Then we find ourselves launching into some "high brow" explanation as to the nature of abstract art and the fact that art can be simply about art itself. All of which leaves the listeners (if they are, in fact, still listening) with rolling eyes, a spinning head, or guffaws of laughter wondering how anyone could be so pretentious as to create art with content and meaning so obscure. That's not the case with work such as that of Ewa Meyze (above and below). Even though at first glance her work might seem to fall squarely into the aforementioned category, It does have recognizable content and though it does seem to have little meaning, that likewise is not the case. Ewa Meyze, in addition to her more traditional photography portfolio, is an architectural photographer.

There's no need to ask: "What is it?"
Ewa Meyze is no architect, but simply a gifted, self-taught photographer with a discerning eye to the limitless possibilities of shape repetition. And, although it was her work which first caught my eye, I soon learned there were similar photographic artists from nations all around the world doing similar work. Ewa Meyze is Swedish, working out of Stockholm depicting primary the exceptional minimalist architecture of that city and the nearby city of Copenhagen, Denmark. Most of the photographers below are affiliated with architectural firms creating promotional material or simply archiving completed projects, Some are, in fact, architects themselves. Inasmuch as neither Ewa Meyze, nor any of the otherss whose work can be seen below, are famous, there is little information on them or their background. Thus I've included only their names and nationalities along with my little slide show. So cursor down, enjoy, and don't ask, "What is it?"

Stunning architecture shots by Alexander Schlichting, a gifted self-taught 
photographer, and urban explorer based in Hamburg, Germany.

 Creative Brutalist Architecture Photography by Rex Zou, a talented
photographer, architect, and visual artist currently based in Shanghai, China.
Architectural shots by John Gollings, a talented 75-years old photographer,
 and architect currently based in Melbourne, Australia.
Architecture Photography by Kirill Golban, a self-taught photographer, 
and urban explorer from Moscow, Russia.
Architecture in Singapore by Leslie Heng,  based in Singapore.
Photography by Roman Vlasov, photographer, designer, and architect
currently based in Moscow, Russia.
Architecture Photography in Seoul by Simon Lachapelle,
photographer, and artist from Montreal, Canada.

Stunning Architecture and Interior Photography by Yura Ukhorskiy, a self-taught
photographer, retoucher, and traveler currently based in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Floating Homes

The floating home is limited only by the designer's imagine and how much 
a buyer wishes to spend for the convenience of living on the water.
We used to call them "houseboats." But just as it took the manufactured housing industry an entire generation to shed the dreaded term "house trailer," the same is likely to be true with the preferred designation "floating homes." If floating homes brings to mind the floating squalor seen below rather than the futuristic image seen above it's time we redefine just what we mean by floating homes. Each state defines floating homes differently, but in general, they are:
        •constructed on a float;
        •designed and built to be used as a residential dwelling;
        •stationary by being moored or anchored, and not meant for navigation;
        •without a means of self-propulsion;
        •powered by utilities connected to the shore; and
        •permanently and continuously connected to a sewage system on shore.

Life is reported to have started in the oceans with the first creatures coming ashore about 3 billion years ago. With 71% of the Earth’s surface made up of ocean water humans may spend the next few millennia re-inhabiting it.

Living on the water has come a long way during the past hundred years.
With the constant climate changes and soaring heat levels which are results of global warming, the world has become very difficult to live in. Various steps have been taken to curb the problems. Different sets of ideas to maintain pleasant temperatures are constantly evolving from various quarters. One such solution is the idea of living in cool and comfortable floating homes. These floating homes comes in various designs and cost. Some of them are affordable while some others are more appropriate for dreams because they are out of the reach of common men. Check out this list of some floating homes which are really cool, luxurious and classy pieces of design and architecture mainly aimed for the rich and the famous. Wherever dry land touches wet water, there are builders and owners with strikingly modern ideas to do with both. Some are in existence today, others likely soon will be.

Solar powered floating island.
This futuristic floating house project is created by Solar Lab. it is based on the concept of a free floating habitat with extendable boundaries to create more living space. It features an integrated solar power supply, an integrated water purification system and a waste treatment system. It is supposed to be a totally autonomous and great sustainable habitat for the future citizens. Currently, this project is mainly used for developing the Institute of Water and Ecology, based on Lake Constance in Germany. This is going to be the most practical sustainable floating structure that will also highlight the sensitivity of water ecosystems and the various prospects of application of solar energy for creating other future housing projects through an exhibition.

Floating home by Waterstudio, Netherlands
This futuristic floating house with unusual decoration from Waterstudio.NL looks very natural and comfortable. It is quite ornamental and stunning in appearance with a beautiful scenery in behind. The entire exterior of this house is made of concrete materials. Wood is also used as another primary material for building this sustainable floating house. It has a kitchen, living room, bedroom and a bathroom.

This particular Stingray Floating House, for example, was purposed
as a luxury home-away-from-home on the Aegean Sea and
designed to allow others to embrace life on the water.
In keeping with their aquatic purpose, this floating house was designed in the shape of a sting ray, with the stinger serving as the lengthy driveway out to the home’s carport. It’s a two story home with the bottom level devoted to communal family space. And it wouldn’t be a beach house without several large glass windows looking out onto the sea. There’s also extensive deck space featuring a beach, an infinity pool, hot tub, dock for small boats, and a fire pit for those chilly nights on the water. On the second level are three bedrooms spaced out around a rotunda and master bedroom is strategically centered on the top floor, hosting two baths and a dressing area. All in all an incredibly sleek home for a lucky family, or someone with several close friends. As an international 3D & Design Solutions firm, Tangram 3DS works with various clients around the world to create architectural works of art that are cutting edge in design and innovative in location.

This moveable home would be able to withstand winds of up to 
156 mph, classified as a Category 4 hurricane.
South Florida, especially Miami and the Keys, was one of several regions that Hurricane Irma pummeled in early September of 2019. The Category 4 storm brought winds of up to 70 mph, destroyed hundreds of houses, and knocked out power for 5.8 million homes and businesses in Florida. A new type of solar-powered home could withstand future storms and rising sea levels. It's designed to be buoyed so that when water levels rise during a storm, it will bob with the water. The luxury homes, which Olthuis and Arkup call "livable yachts," will feature hydraulic jack-up systems to anchor and stabilize them during storms. The systems are designed to lift it 40 feet above the ocean floor to prevent flooding. They will also include systems that collect and purify rainwater for residents to use for their plumbing needs. The team expects the home to cost $2 million to $3 million. From the architect Koen Olthuis and a housing startup called Arkup, the design was presented at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

The floating island concept as seen in Dubai.
This floating island home concept has been developed to answer the needs of island owners in Nakheel’s The World project in Dubai. This concept gave birth to another idea. Atoll Floating Islands, a joint venture between Palmerstone and Donald Starkey Designs. Ome is a floating home that is expected to be maneuvered between Dubai’s coast and The World islands. The floating house sits on a monocoque type structure. The design is a combination of styles. It has to be in accordance with the maritime laws and it also has to meet the standards of The World’s developer, Nakheel. This floating house will offer a 10 m diameter seawater pool, large living areas and five bedrooms.

A design variation of the Ome.
The first Ome house will have a 32m diameter form. Ome will also have a sustainable design. The roof will be covered with photovoltaic screens, making it be self-powered, comprising every level of energy source: water, light etc. The structure and design of the Ome floating house is capable of producing approximately 30,000 kW of renewable energy. That means that the energy is more than enough, it can power six households. A facilities management company will provide service and towing support. Atoll decided to build the Omes on the Dubai mainland and if the houses will gain popularity, the project might extend for builds in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and other island resorts or beach locations all around the world.

On the waterfront has now become a prime, prestigious location
The Fennell Residence located in Portland, Oregon is a floating house designed by Robert Harvey Oshatz. This innovative structure has curved glue lam beams, glass exteriors and an expansive sliding glass door to make it even more impressive. It has a master bedroom, a study, a living room with a dining area and extends out beyond the river. What makes this floating luxury home such a stand-out dwelling is the fact that it is equipped with an upper level that offers beautiful views of the surrounding area, and a so-called 'Sky Majlis', an area that is inspired by Arabic-style sitting and communal spaces designed to encourage socialization. However, these spaces are incredibly versatile and are designed to make it possible for residents to adapt rooms to their needs.

Great for cities with a high rent district.

Not a UFO unless you take it to be an
unidentified floating object.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Roof Styles

The roofer's nightmare
When we think about houses, it goes without saying we're also thinking in terms of "...a roof over our heads. That's unfortunate in that the roof of a house also has a tremendous impact upon the style and era of the house. Otherwise we have little more than walls, doors, and windows. And while each of these may denote a particular architectural style, taken alone, none of them is all that important as to architectural style style. For several years now, I've written as to various housing styles from glass houses to cave houses. All of these have roofs, of course, but this is as closest I've come to a general review of housing styles.

A glossary of roof components.
The onion dome, possibly
the most complex roof
design ever conceived.
A roof serves several purposes other than protecting a house and its occupants from the elements. However, different roof shapes have different pitches, supporting structures, numbers of panels, and even materials, among other features. As such, the roof shape and style will depend on the look and feel desired, costs, needs, preferences, and local weather conditions. Roof shapes differ greatly from region to region. The main factors which influence the shape of roofs are the climate as well as the materials available for roof structure and the outer covering. Roof terminology is also not rigidly defined. Usages vary slightly from region to region, or from one builder or architect to another. But before we can have a serious discourse on roofs, it's vital we understand the nomenclature. We probably all know what a rafter is, but are you familiar with the term, "rake." If not check out the chart above. Although each term is quite specific, some if not most are not words we use in everyday conversation. By the same token, there are some very basic types of roofs (below) which are used in more than one style of housing architecture. Each one is discussed in some detail on down below.

Common roof types
An example of a gable roof.
Gable roof--Gable roofs shed water and snow easily, allow much more ventilation, and can provide additional space in the form of attics or vaulted ceilings. However, gable roofs can be problematic when used in high wind areas, particularly if the frames have inadequate structural support or when there’s too much of an over-hang. In an area that exper-iences high winds, the need for proper braces and roof inspection after a storm becomes quite important. Clay or concrete tiles, asphalt shingles, metal, and cedar shakes are some of the roofing materials you can use for a gabled roof. Though a 40° angle of pitch is recommended for snowy areas, using metal shingles or standing seam could help prevent leaks if the roof features hips and valleys.
The Mansard roof, named for the 17th century
French architect, François Mansart
Mansard roofs have low-pitched portions that are not suitable for areas that receive heavy snowfall. Because of the embellishments and de-tails featured, mansard roofs usually cost more than the more traditional types. How-ever, the added character and space can make up for any extra cost incurred. Since this type of roof is uniquely de-signed, the use of a unique material is bound to make a mansard roof much more special. Metals like zinc and copper are great choices for the roof’s steep portion. While zinc and copper can cost more up front, they are excellent long-term options because they will require minimal maintenance. When installed in a diamond pattern, wood or slate shingles can make mansard roofs stand out. Overlapping composition shingles aren’t, however, a good option. But you can use regular-patterned asphalt shingles on the roof’s steeper portion. Regardless of the material used, the roof’s low-slope part needs to be properly flashed and waterproofed. Types: Mansard roofs come in a variety of shapes, the most common being straight-angle, convex and concave silhouettes.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Winslow House features
a hip roof.

Hip Roof--Hip roofs have four sides with slopes of equal length that come together at the top, forming a ridge. Thanks to the inward slope of these four sides, hip roofs are sturdier, more stable, and can last longer than gable roofs. In fact, hip roofs are an excellent choice for both snowy and high wind regions. The slant allows hip roofs to shed snow and water easily. You can also add a dormer or crow’s nest for extra living space. You can use almost any roofing mat-erial for a hip roof. Options include shingles, metal, and tiles. Hip roof designs are more complex and require more building materials than gable roofs, making them more expensive to build. Along with improper installation, the addition of a dormer could lead to the formation of water leaks in the valleys and several other issues, hence the importance of proper construction and maintenance. As mentioned before, this roof is very similar to the bonnet roof. The main difference is that the four sides of the roof meet at a ridge or a flat spot, instead of coming to a point at the top. This enhances the practicality of the roof type.

A pyramid roof.
Pyramid roof--is a variation of the hip roof except that rather than a ridge down the length of the roof, the slope origin-ates from a single high point in the center, sloping in all four directions. Pyramid roofs were quite popular in the early de-cades of the 20th century but are seldom used today.
The saltbox roof, named for its resemblance to
the colonial kitchen storage container for salt.

The Saltbox is sometimes called a house style, a house shape, or a type of roof. It's a modification of a gabled roof. Rarely is the gable area on the front, street-facing façade of a saltbox. A saltbox roof is distinctive and characterized by an overly long and ex-tended roof in the back of the house—often on the north side to protect interiors from harsh New England winter weather. The shape of the roof is said to mimic the slant-lid storage box that colonists used for salt, a common min-eral used to preserve food in Colonial New England. The house shown here, the Daggett Farmhouse, was built in Connecticut in the 1760s. It is now on display at Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.

The Dutch colonial housing style often features
aa gambrel roof.
Gambrel Roof--Although it is almost the same as the mansard since both have two slopes, the gambrel or barn roof features two sides instead of four. Same as the mansard, the gambrel roof’s lower sec-tion has a steep, almost ver-tical slope and a much lower upper slope. Although the name is synonymous with Dutch Colonial and Georgian style houses, gambrels are often used on log cabins, farm houses, and barns. The gambrel is not only easy to frame out but offers extra living space as well. This design involves fewer materials and is simple to construct, meaning significantly lower costs up front. The gambrel uses two roof beams and gusset joints. In addition to being one of the greatest roof shapes for storage buildings and outdoor sheds, gambrel roofs have a shape that provides more room for storage without occupying more space than any of the other designs. However, since this open style is susceptible to extreme pressure, it's not recommended for heavy snowfall and high wind areas. When installed in areas with extreme weather, reinforced trusses should be used to support the upper pitch. This type of roof is very similar to the Mansard Roof. This Dutch-inspired type of roof is made up of four slopes, two on each side of the home. The lower slope is a much steeper vertical style than the upper slope, which might or might not be visible from below

Flat roofs lend themselves to contemporary
modern housing styles
Flat Roof--As the name suggests, the flat roof looks completely flat to the naked eye. They do, however, have a slight pitch, one that enables water run-off and drainage. Although flat roofs are mostly used for commercial buildings, they are also great for resid-ential houses. This is one of the easiest types of roof to identify because it is very common–and flat, as its name implies. Flat roofs are easier to construct than any other roof type. They are safer to stand on, and they are generally more accessible for maintenance and repairs. The main drawback to this type of roof is that it does require more maintenance than other types, largely because the lack of slope can tend to accumulate debris. Other than the fact that they can work well in both low and high rainfall areas, flat roofs offer an unmatched amount of outdoor living space. While flat rooftops can be used as a site for partially enclosed penthouse rooms, gardens, or patios, the design also allows the installation of heating and cooling units as well as PV solar panels. Compared to pitched roof designs, flat roofs require fewer building materials and are easier to construct, both of which help lower costs. Though this type costs less to install, they can be more expensive than pitched roofs in the long run because of ongoing maintenance, repair, and replacement costs. Also, the low pitch makes them more susceptible to leaks, which means flat roofs might not be an excellent choice for high rainfall or snowfall areas. Materials that are continuous and do not involve any seams are the best option, especially since flat roofs must be waterproof. Tar and gravel, metal sheets, PVC, roll roofing, rubber membrane, and TPO are the most common materials.

The bonnet roof often involves a house with a
wraparound porch.
A bonnet roof-- features a double slope on all four of its sides. The lower slope is less steep and more angular than the upper slope and extends over an open-sided raised porch. The design of the roof of-ers great shade and pro-tection. The roof’s design is an opposite to the standard man-sard roof due to its upper slope being far steeper than the bottom slope. Bonnet roofs are also known as a kicked-eaves roof. Kicked eaves are a roof enhancement that gives the home a visor effect. Modified gable roof, modified hip roof and a belcote roof are also common names for a bonnet roof. Bonnet roofs are generally seen on homes that have porches around the perimeter of the building.

A contemporary modern style house often
utilizes a shed roof similar to this one.
Shed Roof--Think of a shed roof as a flat roof at a steeper slope. You can also think of it as one half of a traditional gable roof. Whereas a hip roof and other popular roof types have at least two sides, the shed roof has a single slope that can vary in steepness depending on the design. This style was once used mainly on sheds, but it's becoming more popular on residential homes. Sometimes, the entire roof is a shed-style roof. On other homes, only a section of the structure uses a shed roof. You might use a shed roof on a new addition to your home even though the rest of the house has a hip roof or another design, for example. It's a simple and inexpensive way to roof the newer section. Since the shed roof has just one flat surface, it's a very simple design that makes it easy to build. Your contractor doesn't have to worry about various surfaces meeting, multiple ridges or lots of valleys that make the job more challenging. That means your contractor can build your roof much faster than many other roof styles, and you have a clean, simple look when it's done. The simplicity of the shed roof design also makes it more cost effective. This style uses fewer materials, which cuts down on that part of the cost. It's easy for roofers to build, so they can complete the job faster for less labor time, and there aren't any complex parts of the job to make the price skyrocket. Roofs with multiple valleys introduce more places for leaks to happen and more potential places for pooling water. The shed roof eliminates those additional seams and pooling spots to better shed the water and keep the roof safe from water damage.

The jerkinhead roof style of the Harriet Beecher
Stowe House, Hartford, Connecticut.
Jerkinhead roof--The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hart-ford, Connecticut has a hipped gable or jerkinhead. A jerk-inhead roof has a hipped ga-ble. Instead of rising to a point, the gable is clipped short and appears to turn downwards. The technique creates a less-soaring, more humble effect on residential architecture. A jerkinhead roof may also be called a Jerkin Head Roof, a Half-hipped Roof, a Clipped Gable, or even a Jerkinhead Gable. Jerkinhead roofs are sometimes found on American bungalows and cottages, small American houses from the 1920s and 1930s, and assorted Victorian house styles.

Factory made skeletal roof support designs. Notice they all rely heavily
upon the triangle for their strength.
There are any number of additional roof styles to numerous to mention. Some are derived from the ones depicted above, or are combination of the most common styles. Below you'll fine images which describe their various features more accurately than I can with mere words. Except for doors, roofs are the most important element in the house. The roof is the major determinant of a house's style, not just as shelter from the elements.


Monday, February 3, 2020

St. Paul's Cathedral

Night falls over St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Over the past fifty years I've visited several big churches. Now my numerous health problems and my wife (mostly the latter) have forced me to limit my travels to three-hour road trips to the Cleveland Clinic. There aren't many world-class churches along I-75 so it's unlikely I'll visit any more. Starting with the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. some fifty years ago, each, for various reasons, have left a lasting impression. The most impressive was La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, which is not actually a cathedral at all but simply a huge church. Close runners-up would St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris. Strangely enough, the most recent (and final) cathedral I've visited did not seem to me to be all that impressive. St. Paul's Cathedral in London is huge, ornate, and architecturally significant, but it did not seem to me to be in the same class as most of the others.
Wren revised his design for St. Paul's Cathedral numerous times.

Sir Christopher Wren
St. Paul Cathedral is unique due to the fact that, although it was constructed over a period of some thirteen years (1707-20), it was totally designed by just one man, Sir Christopher Wren. Wren came by his commission due to a tragic accident. In the 1666 the Great Fire of London gutted Old St Paul's (below). While it might have been possible to reconstruct it, a decision was taken to build a new cathedral in a modern style. This course of action had been proposed even before the fire. As early as 1661 (before the fire) Wren had planned to replace Old St. Paul's dilapidated tower with a dome, using the existing structure as a scaffold. He produced a drawing of the proposed dome which shows his idea that it should span nave and aisles at the crossing. After the Fire, it was at first thought possible to retain a substantial part of the old cathedral, but ultimately the entire structure was demolished in the early 1670s.

Old St. Paul's Cathedral was originally a Gothic structure.

The result was the present St Paul's Cathedral, still the second largest church in Britain, with a dome proclaimed as the finest in the world. The building was financed by a tax on coal, and was completed within its architect's lifetime with many of the major contractors engaged for the duration. The "topping out" of the cathedral (when the final stone was placed on the lantern) took place on 26 October 26, 1708, performed by Wren's son Christopher Jr and the son of one of the masons. The cathedral was declared officially complete by Parliament on 25 December 1711 (Christmas Day). In fact, construction continued for several years after that, with the statues on the roof added in the 1720s. In 1716 the total costs amounted to £1,095,556 (£161 million or $213,775,800 in 2018) completed within its architect's lifetime with many of the major contractors engaged for the duration.
One of the earliest photographs of the cathedral. It dates from sometime before 1860.
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The cathedral is one of the most famous and recognizable sights of London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren's other city churches, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. At 365 feet (111 meters) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967. The dome is among the highest in the world. St Paul's is the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral. Services held at St Paul's have included the funerals of Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher; jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria; peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars; the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer; the launch of the Festival of Britain; and the thanksgiving services for the Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees celebrating the 80th and 90th birthdays of Queen Elizabeth II. The cathedral is a working church with hourly prayer and daily services. The tourist entry fee at the door is £20 for adults as of January 2019, (cheaper online). No charge is made to worshippers.
St. Paul's Cathedral after the London blitz of WW II.
During WW II, the iconic St Paul's Survived the Blitz although struck by bombs on October 10, 1940 and April 17,1941. The first strike destroyed the high altar, while the second strike on the north transept left a hole in the floor above the crypt. The latter bomb is believed to have detonated in the upper interior above the north transept and the force was sufficient to shift the entire dome laterally by a small amount. On September 12, 1940, a time-delayed bomb that had struck the cathedral was successfully defused and removed by a bomb disposal detachment of Royal Engineers. Had this bomb detonated, it would have totally destroyed the cathedral; it left a 100-foot (30-meter) crater when later remotely detonated in a secure location Extensive copper, lead, and slate renovation work was carried out on the Dome in 1996 and in June, 2011, a 15-year restoration project—one of the largest ever undertaken in the UK was completed.
Wren's final design floor plan of St. Paul's Cathedral.
In designing St. Paul's, Christopher Wren had to meet many challenges. He had to create a fitting cathedral to replace Old St. Paul's, as a place of worship and as a landmark within the City of London. He had to satisfy the requirements of the church and the tastes of a royal patron, as well as respecting the essentially medieval tradition of English church building which developed to accommodate the liturgy. Wren was familiar with contemporary Renaissance and Baroque trends in Italian architecture and had visited France, where he studied the work of François Mansart. Wren's third design is embodied in the "Great Model" of 1673. The model, made of oak and plaster, cost over £500 (approximately £32,000, or $42,000 today) and is over 13 feet (4 m) tall and 21 feet (6 m) long. This design retained the form of the Greek-Cross design but extended it with a nave. Another problem was that the entire design would have to be completed all at once because of the eight central piers that supported the dome, instead of being completed in stages and opened for use before construction finished, as was customary. The Great Model was Wren's favorite design; he thought it a reflection of Renaissance beauty. After the Great Model, Wren resolved not to make further models and not to expose his drawings publicly, which he found did nothing but "lose time, and subject [his] business many times, to incompetent judges". The Great Model survives and is housed within the Cathedral itself.
Structural drawing of Wren's
design for St. Paul's dome.
Another of the design problems that confronted Wren was to create a landmark dome, tall enough to visually replace the lost tower of St Paul's, while at the same time appearing visually satisfying when viewed from inside the building. Wren planned a double-shelled dome, as at St Peter's Basilica. His solution to the visual problem was to separate the heights of the inner and outer dome to a much greater extent than had been done by Michelangelo at St Peter's, drafting both as catenary curves, rather than as hemispheres. Between the inner and outer domes, Wren inserted a brick cone which supports both the timbers of the outer, lead-covered dome and the weight of the ornate stone lantern that rises above it. Both the cone and the inner dome are 18 inches thick and are supported by wrought iron chains at intervals in the brick cone and around the cornice of the peristyle of the inner dome to prevent spreading and cracking. The final& design showed external buttresses on the ground floor level. These were not a classical feature and were one of the first elements Wren changed. Instead he made the walls of the cathedral particularly thick to avoid the need for external buttresses altogether. The clerestory and vault are reinforced with flying buttresses, which were added at a relatively late stage in the design to give extra strength. These are concealed behind the screen wall of the upper story, which was added to keep the building's classical style intact, to add sufficient visual mass to balance the appearance of the dome and which, by its weight, counters the thrust of the buttresses on the lower walls.

The interior of St. Paul's Cathedral as seen from the dizzying height of the dome.
I think one reason St. Paul's Cathedral did not seem as impressive as some of the other churches and cathedral's I've visited was the fact that I was there on a rainy, heavily overcast day. Churches such as St. Paul's need light. Any interior as large as St. Paul's cannot possibly be lit effectively. Add to that Wren's infatuation with the Baroque naturally entails a certain massive "heaviness," with smaller windows and fewer of them than the Gothic or Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia.
St. Paul's Nave from eye level.