Of Architectural Interest

Recently while working on research for another web site, I had come across an excellent web site about Copper Country Architecture put together by the Social Science department at Michigan Tech. The site provides biographies of prominent are architects as well as detailed descriptions of their Copper Country work. Its a great site that uses many architectural terms that I wish I knew when I put together my Calumet Facades Series a few months back. Figured I’d spend some time today giving a short lesson on some of the more common architectural features used in Copper Country buildings – to help in future building watching.

Here’s a shot of the Michigan House’s front facade. This building is typical of many buildings built here around the turn of the century. The construction material of choice was most often brick, with sandstone features or facades added for looks. A great many architectural features can be seen here, which I’ll define next:

Bay – Building facades are divided architecturally into several vertical sections called “bays”. Each bay shares common elements, and are repeated across the facade. In most cases they are divided by a series of pilasters – which set the bays boundaries. In the Michigan House example, the building has four bays across its front. In most cases bays are of equal width – but in some cases they can be of different sized.

Cornice – This is the decorative “cap” placed along the top of a building. In the Copper Country these were often pre-fabricated from tin and shipped here from elsewhere in patterned peices. After over a half-century of neglect, a great deal of these flimsy details have fallen off Copper Country Buildings.

Freize – This is often the area on a building’s facade directly below the Cornice. In some cases these contain highly intricate carvings or molding, while in other buildings they feature more simple brick patterns.

Pilaster – These are “projections” along a building’s facade that run vertically along its height. Generally they were used to help strengthen brick walls but later were used simply for decoration.

Oriel Windows – These are a collection of windows protruding out from the buildings face. They can run multiple stories, or consist simply of a “bay window”. These are very popular in Copper Country buildings and can be found along lots of buildings.

Bullseye Window – Another popular Copper Country detail, these are small circular windows. They are usually used along attic space and often feature elaborate prism glass.

Lintel – this is the structural element (and sometimes decorative) that sits above a window. In the Copper Country these are often made from sandstone as a single piece or an elaborate arch.

Capital – this is a decorative “cap” placed atop a pillar or – in this case – a pilaster.

Here’s a second example – one of the most famous buildings of the Copper COuntry – the Calumet Theatre. One of the more ornamental buildings in the area, it features a few “higher class” embellishments across its facade. Here’s a few:

Belt Course – these are horizontal “projections” running along a building’s length. Similar to a pilaster but horizontally laid. These are often used to differentiate a building’s floors or as a transitional element between two types of building material. In the Copper Country these two were often made from sandstone, or by decorative terra cotta pieces.

Pediment – This is a triangular gable fit over the top of porches, doors or windows. The space inside of the triangle is known as a tympanum – and often features decorative pieces.

Rondel – This is similar to a bullseye window except its not a window – its simply a round decorative element.

Parapet – this is a short wall placed along the top of a porch, roof, or other sudden drop. If the parapet is built to resemble a railing, then its known as a balustraded parapet or simply a balustrade.

Porte-Cochere – This is a special type of porch – known architecturally as a portico – that is large enough for a carriage to drive under. French for “door” (porte) and “carriage” (cochere).

Rusticated Sandstone – This is a masonry term which describes how the sandstone is laid. In this case “rusticated” means that deep and wide grooves are cut between individual blocks. These stones seen at the Theatre are also “rough faced” meaning that their forward face is left rough and is not smoothed off. (in contrast is the first image of this post – which shows sandstone which is not rusticated)

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