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Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch

Structure Information

The Wellington Arch is located at the corner of Hyde Park, but it was first located at Hyde Park Screen. Hyde Park Corner is thought of as the entrance to London. The arch was designed by Decimus Burton, an architect of the “eclectic style of the age,” and it commissioned by the Office of Woods and Forests. The Wellington Arch was built between 1825-1827, and it was constructed in honor of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. A statue of the Duke was placed on top of the arch in 1846, and the quadriga (a chariot drawn by four horses) sculpture was erected in 1912. The Wellington Arch was built after the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and it is a distinct London monument. The Wellington Arch and the Marble Arch were both created during a period of “contemporary grand neoclassical building projects” The governing classes of Britain wanted London to reflect the country’s wealth and international status. [1]

Figure 1: Wellington Arch [1] 

Historical Significance

Decimus Burton was tasked with designing new railings and gateways for the royal parks in London, and his initial designs were fairly modest. Since Green Park was seen as the outer entrance to Buckingham Palace, Burton produced a more elaborate second design. Buckingham Palace was being remodeled by John Nash for King George IV, and the arch was designed in a more ornamental style to suit the monarchy. The estimate for the arch was approved in 1826, but the quadriga sculpture was not paid by the Treasury in part because the Buckingham Palace renovations were so expensive. The Wellington Arch was completed but left without the decorations from Burton’s second design. The Wellington Arch does not have any innovative structural engineering designs since arches have been around for thousands of years. It was built around the same time as the Marble Arch and the Euston Arch in the 1830’s. Great Britain was an emerging world power and the feeling of pride and confidence was reflected in the art and architecture. [1]

Cultural Significance

Committees were formed in the 1830’s to created national memorials to two heroes of the time: Lord Nelson and Duke Wellington. The Wellington Memorial Committee chose the equestrian statue of Wellington and approved Matthew Cotes Wyatt as the sculptor. This decision caused a lot of controversy at the time between the committee, the public, the press and Parliament. The equestrian state designed by Wyatt was called “both ugly and completely disproportionate to the arch.” There were demands to take down the statue, but Wellington strongly favored the statue and stated that he would resign from all public posts if the statue was taken down. Duke Wellington was the commander-in-chief at the time, so the Queen and government stopped their demands for the removal of the statue. The statue of Wellington and the controversy surrounding it has been called “the greatest sculptural fiasco of the 19th century.” It caused an artistic debate and is an example of the British attitude to public art. The Wellington statue was removed in 1883, and in 1912 the quadriga statue was placed on top of the arch. The quadriga state was designed by Adrian Jones and is “a masterpiece of British public sculpture from its Golden Age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, Wellington Arch is placed on an island in the middle of the Hyde Park Corner roundabout. It was rebuilt in the current location 1883-1885 reusing the original materials. The facing masonry is of Portland Stone, and beneath the facing masonry is London stock brick. The interior of the arch has five stories, with rooms and a flight of cantilevered stone stairs on both sides. Viewing columns on the columns on the east and west sides were created 1999-2000 by the English Heritage and refurbishment during 2011-12 created a temporary exhibition on the third floor. [1]

Structural Art

The Wellington Arch does satisfy the following requirements for structural art: scientific, social, and symbolic. The time period that the Wellington Arch emphasized the construction of elaborate triumphant arches, during a time when Great Britain emerging as a great world power. The symbolic natural of the arch is shown in the depiction of Duke Wellington, who was famous for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The scientific aspect of structural art, however, is not satisfied since there is no new or innovative technique used for the construction. Since it does not satisfy all three aspects, it would be difficult to call the Wellington Arch a piece of structural art.

Structural Analysis

The construction materials used for the Wellington Arch was London stock brick, faced with Portland Stone. The beams are made from cast-iron for strengthening. It has Corinthian beams and pilasters. [2]

The structural system is an arch, and it carries loads through compression. The keystone is inserted into the center of the top of the arch and pushes the stones into compression. The load path of the arch is down and through the abutments.

Figure 2: Load Path of Wellington Arch [1]

The following are the material properties of Portland stone: compressive strength of 38-39.04 MPa, density of 2330 kg/m^3, and a flexural strength of 3.5-7.55 MPa. It is assumed that the width of the arch to be 6 meters, and the max height of the arch to be 18 meters. The diameters of the columns is assumed to be 0.8 meters. The modulus of elasticity of stone is assumed to be 50 GPa.

The thickness of the Portland stone above the arch is assumed to be 1.5 meters. To calculate the uniform load acting on the arch, the following formula is used:

The width of the Portland stone acting on the arch is assumed to be 3 meters. To calculate the uniform load acting on the arch, the following formula is used:

Figure 3: Reaction forces of arch [2]

To calculate the reactions at the supports, take the sum of the moments in the y-direction:

From the cables the following reaction force is calculated:

RAH = (w*L^2)/(8h)

=((102,858 N/m) *( 4m)^2) / (8*12 m)

RAH = 17,143 N

The max force in the cables is calculated as follows:

Fmax= ((RAH)^2+( RVH)^2))= (17,143)^2+(205,716)^2

Fmax= 206, 429 N

The max force at the abutments is equal to the force on the buttresses. The buttresses will need to be designed for overturning using the following analysis. The height of the buttress is assumed to be 2 meters.

The angle is determined as tan^-1(205, 716/17,143)= 85.2 degrees. The width of the buttress (d) is assumed to be 0.25 m. The length of the buttress into the page is assumed to be 3m, the same as the length of the thickness of the arch when calculating the uniform load from density. The flowing equation is used to the moment which would cause the buttress to overturn.

Figure 4: Force on buttresses

The moment that overturns the buttress is calculated to be 12,593.5 N*m.


Personal Response

I thought the Wellington Arch stood out on the roundabout so I could see why it was relocated to its present location of Hyde Park Corner. When I first went to Hyde Park, I thought a different arch was the Wellington Arch. I can definitely see that London has a lot of ceremonial arches, some fancier than others. The area around the Arch was very busy, but I unfortunately did not get to see the Life Guards pass through the arch to the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.

Figure 5: What I thought was the Wellington Arch (still a pretty cool arch)


Figure 6: The actual Wellington Arch (on a sunny day no less!)








  1. hmurray8 says

    Your cultural significance section was very informative about the background of the arch. I always think it’s very interesting to discuss controversy about structural art. I also appreciated your calculation on the overturning moment of the buttress. You went above and beyond on your structural analysis.