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Mark, Robert

    Full Name: Mark, Robert

    Other Names:

    • Robert Mark

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 03 July 1930

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), engineering, Medieval (European), and sculpture (visual works)

    Career(s): educators


    Princeton professor of civil engineering who researched Chartres and other medieval structures on a technical level. Mark was the son of Herman Mark and Laura Bloom (Mark). His father was an attorney. Mark graduated from the City College (modern City College of New York, CUNY) with a BCE in 1952. That same year he was hired at Combustion Engineering, Inc., New York, NY, as stress analyst. He married Janet Harvery (d. 1976) in 1955. In 1957 he joined Princeton University as a research engineer and lecturer. Mark investigated structural stress on Amiens cathedral using modern engineering analysis. His research, covered even in Life (magazine), concluded among other things that the towers of the cathedral were necessary to stabilize the walls and that the flying buttresses protected the building in horizontal wind pressures. In 1968 he was elevated to associate professor of civil engineering. Mark was made (full) professor in the department of civil engineering and architecture in 1974. He served on the board of consultants for the National Endowment for the Humanities bewtee 1975 and 1983. Mark published a book in 1982 on his findings on Gothic buildings, Experiments in Gothic Structure. The book further advanced technical knowledge n the construction of Gothic churches. In 1996 he retired Professor Emeritus of Architecture & Civil Engineering from the University. Mark devised experiments using plastic cross-sectional models to examine how actual Gothic buildings withstood their stress. Using weights attached to the models to simulate the loads, he heated and cool them, using polarized light to photograph the degree and places of stress on the structure. Mark’s most famous conclusion, that the ribbing in Gothic vaults served no structural function, was groundbreaking. The ribbing, he observed, served as a centering guide during construction and to hide joint lines.

    Selected Bibliography

    Experients in Gothic Structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982; Light, Wind, and Structure: The Mystery of the Master Builders. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,1990; edited, with A.S. Cakmak. Hagia Sophia from the Age of Justinian to the Present. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992; edited, Architectural Technology up to the Scientific Revolution: The Art and Structure of Large-Scale Buildings. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1993.


    “Cathedral in Plastic Gothic.” Life (magazine), September 19, 1969, pp. 95-96; Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 44; Morrison, Philip. “Books.” Scientific American. March, 1983, pp.37-38; personal correspondence, November 2012.


    "Mark, Robert." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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