February 07, 2007

Obscure Architectural Term of the Day!

VOUSSOIR. A brick or wedge-shaped stone forming one of the units of an arch.

And a very elegant thing they are.

Here's a simple illustration of the item in question, but it really doesn't do justice to the inventiveness folks have shown in making arches.

The Romans really were the first to make good use of arches, and even though things like the Pont du Gard aqueduct were intended to be utilitarian, it's still quite decorative and a large part of its charm are the tiered arrangement of arches and their exposed brickwork.


Fast forward several hundred centuries and several thousand miles away, and you can see one of the foremost arch lovers ever to come along, one H.H. Richardson, whose distinctive use of gigantic masonry arches gave rise to the term Richardsonian Romanesque. His work included such nifty things as the Glessner House in Chicago and the Crane Memorial Library in Quincy, Massachusetts.

That Chicago building is worth noting, mainly because of the presence of another architect of some note who came along a bit later. Although I doubt he would ever stand for anyone saying he deliberately stole ideas from other architects, it's still clear that a good idea is a good idea, and good ideas are worth using. Such as at the Arthur Heurtley House in Oak Park, Illinois. It's also probably not worth mentioning that a certain county civic center also bears a striking similarity to the previously cited aqueduct (except for the lack of exposed voussoirs, of course).

Posted by Terry Oglesby at February 7, 2007 02:05 PM

Oooh, pretty. So now, if I make 2 fan quilt blocks and join them together to make an arch, I know what to call the fan-blade-thingees (other than fan-blade-thingees).

Some of the most striking quilts I've seen are taken from architectural elements and designs. But then, fabric is a lot easier to work with than stone!

Posted by: Diane at February 7, 2007 02:42 PM

You know, I bet you could do a pretty good business making quilts with architectural ornament themes. Old guys like Samuel Yellin and Charles Mackintosh did really neat designs that would work well in fabric.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at February 7, 2007 02:53 PM

I have to say, though, Mr. H.H. seems to have built some (for lack of a better term) thick, heavy buildings. They're highly reminiscent (duh) of some of the Romanesque churches of my acquaintance, and they don't seem to soar so much as squat.

Those aqueducts are downright airy by comparison. Smart fellers, them Romans, even if they did have a penchant for conquest and pillage.

Posted by: skinnydan at February 7, 2007 03:18 PM

The metalwork is wonderful - it makes great quilting designs.

OK, add another couple of quilts to the to-do pile...

Posted by: Diane at February 7, 2007 03:27 PM

As much as like FLW and I do. I gotta point out just about everything he designed is scaled for short slim people. On top og that he hated kitchen I guess coz I'd hate to try cooking in them. Heh, I think I'll stop here before going into KISS and FLW's roofs...

Posted by: Chef Tony at February 7, 2007 04:41 PM