Timbrel vaulting may very well be a lost art, but it still holds a magical appeal for some. Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta, for one, finds timbrel vaulting so appealing that he’s moving back to Cuba to restore Fidel Castro’s unfinished dance school, which was built using the Spanish construction technique.
It’s been 14 years since Acosta lived in Cuba, World Architecture News reports, and now he’s ready to head back to his homeland and start work on the dance school restoration. To complete this, Acosta commissioned architect Lord Norman Foster, Hon. FAIA, and his firm Foster + Partners even though, as Lloyd Alter points out in TreeHugger, the original architect Vittorio Garatti is still alive and well.
Timbrel vaulting, or Catalan vaulting, combines tiles, mortar, and a little bit of magic. Low-tech Magazine describes the technique this way:
The timbrel vault does not rely on gravity but on the adhesion of several layers of overlapping tiles which are woven together with fast-setting mortar. If just one layer of thin tiles was used, the structure would collapse, but adding two or three layers makes the resulting laminated shell almost as strong as reinforced concrete.
Acosta’s reasoning for moving back to Cuba has less to do with the beautiful aesthetics of the incomplete Modernist dance school than it does with Cuba’s economic upswing, according to World Architecture News. But surely it can’t hurt that there exists such a whimsical and beautiful building just begging to be completed.