A structural optimization process is presented for arches with varying cross-section. The optimality criteria method is used to develop a recursive relationship for the design variables considering displacement, stresses and minimum depth constraints. The depth at the crown and at the support are taken as design variables first. Then the approach is extended by taking the depth values of each joint as design variable. The curved beam element of constant cross section is used to model the parabolic and circular arches with varying cross section. A number of design examples are presented to demonstrate the application of the method.