The Escobedo Group Steps Onto the International Stage

The Group wants to achieve the impossible with its Compression-Only Stone Vault



img.0The Compression-Only Stone Vault

David Escobedo, nationally recognized builder known within the architectural community for his precision and unique building methods, collaborates alongside John Ochsendorf (MIT), Philippe Block (The Block Research Group and ETH Zurich) and Matthew DeJong (Cambridge University) to design, fabricate and erect an unprecedented free-standing, compression-only stone cathedral in a matter of months.  The physical manifestation of this seemingly impossible trajectory appears within this year’s La Biennale di Venezia. 

img.1The Compression-Only Stone Vault

Inspired by historical engineering and construction methods, Escobedo, Block, Ochsendorf and DeJong seek to renew the knowledge  of the past using present-day technologies to design in ways that not only conserve resources, but also withstand the test of time.  The Escobedo Group fabricated and built the vault with 399 stones, incorporating tessellation design with voussoir geometry to create a visually spectacular armadillo-like shell that commands a focal point within the Corderie all’ Arsenale.

img.2The Compression-Only Stone Vault

“This is the most complex stone vault to have been built in generations.  We can go back to some of the great stone vaults of the 17th century, the 15th and the 12th century and we can find complex geometry, but this is really more complex than anything that’s been done anywhere in the world in recent decades,”  states MIT's John Ochsendorf, one of the world’s leading expert on stone vaults.

img.3The Compression-Only Stone Vault

The exhibit, BEYOND BENDING: Learning from the Past To Design a Better Future explores the ways we can reshape or innovate the knowledge of the ages to enhance the present and future needs of civil society.  The 15th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, titled REPORTING FROM THE FRONT, is curated by Alejandro Aravena, exploring trends for the ways in which architecture is capable of renewing the spirit of humanity within the currently disjointed and fragmented connection between the built environment and those it serves and supports.  

img.4The Compression-Only Stone Vault

“Architecture should not be a screen with a fake substructure… This [project] is a stone vault balanced in space.  What you see is what you get.  You cannot be more pure.  For the La Biennale, we promised a modern-day cathedral in just a few months, so we needed to have the best partner in the world to do this, and that could only be Escobedo,” notes Philippe Block of ETH Zurich. 

img.5The Compression-Only Stone Vault


img.6The Compression-Only Stone Vault


Further information about the project are available at