About Us

This ongoing project brings together a team from the University of Liverpool to investigate medieval vault design in the British Isles using contemporary digital techniques. Our main aim is therefore to examine different tools that are now available, such as digital laser scanning and digital modelling, and ask questions of how these can be applied to historic works of architecture and the knowledge we can gain from this.

Our analysis is inspired by the work of Robert Willis, a Victorian engineer and scholar who questioned the design and construction methods used to create medieval vaults, however, he could not fully prove his theories as manual surveying techniques available at the time meant it was logistically not feasible. Now we have the use of digital surveying techniques, the process of surveying medieval vaults is much faster, and our aim is to augment and extend the work of Willis.


Dr Alex Buchanan has been at the University of Liverpool since 2007 where she is Senior Lecturer in Archive Studies, having previously been archivist at The Clothworkers’ Company and Lambeth Palace Library in London. Alex’s research is situated at the intersection between archives and architectural history: she is interested in how medieval architecture was designed, communicated and recorded and how it has been studied in the post-medieval period. In 2013 Alex published a monograph Robert Willis (1800-1875) and the Foundation of Architectural History on a pioneering architectural historian whose work on vaults inspired both her initial interest in him and the present project. Email.

Square Nick

Dr Nick Webb is a qualified architect and lecturer at the Liverpool School of Architecture. He is researching the application of contemporary digital techniques as a method of analysing historic works of architecture, providing new and enhanced information that would not have been possible in a pre-digital era. These applications are being investigated in relation to designs that were not constructed, buildings that were built and then destroyed as well as buildings that still exist; the application of which can be seen in this project. Email.

JRJR Peterson is a technician and photographer in the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool. He is focussing on the use of photogrammetry as one method of digitally surveying the vaults, as well as working on the digital laser scanning. JR has also been involved in projects in Turkey using digital scanning techniques, as well as projects using studio photography to document archaeological artefacts.

English Medieval Vaults