Analysis of the design concept for the Iglesia de la Virgen de la Medalla Milagrosa

Ashley P. Thrall, Maria E.M. Garlock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The Iglesia de la Virgen de la Medalla Milagrosa, or Miraculous Medal Church, exemplifies Félix Candela's mastery of discipline and play with the hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar) form. Candela designed and built this thin shell concrete structure in Narvarte, Mexico City between 1953 and 1955. His design concept was developed from his asymmetrical "umbrella" hypar form which he then tilted and warped to form half of each bay of the nave of Milagrosa. This paper first presents finite element analyses and a discussion of the structural form for each stage in the development of this design concept. Then an analysis of two adjacent bays is presented assuming a uniform thickness of 4cm (1.6in). In the actual structure, Candela adds a scalloping pattern which thickens the top ridge to 14 cm (5.5in). Through additional analysis with this added weight, this paper finds that significant tensile forces would develop without the scalloping ridge. The scalloped ridge therefore serves both structural and aesthetic functions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures
Issue number163
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • Candela
  • Hypar
  • Hyperbolic paraboloid

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