Mansard roof

Mansard roof
A mansard roof on the Château de Dampierre (1675–1683), by
Jules Hardouin-Mansart, great-nephew of François Mansart.

A mansard or mansard roof (also called a French roof) is a four-sided gambrel-style hip roof characterized by two slopes on each of its sides with the lower slope at a steeper angle than the upper[1][2] that is punctured by dormer windows.[3] The roof creates an additional floor of habitable space,[4] such as a garret. The upper slope of the roof may not be visible from street level when viewed from close proximity to the building.

The roof design was first popularized by François Mansart (1598–1666), an accomplished architect of the French Baroque period,[5] which became especially fashionable during the Second French Empire (1852–1870)[6] of Napoléon III.


Identifying a mansard

The Landed Gentry House in Szczecin, Poland
A cross-sectional diagram of a timber-framed Mansard roof; each of its four faces have the same profile.

Two distinct traits of the mansard roof – steep sides and a double pitch – sometimes lead to it being confused with other roof types. Since the upper slope of a mansard roof is rarely visible from the ground, a conventional single-plane roof with steep sides may be misidentified as a mansard roof. The gambrel roof style, commonly seen in barns in North America, is a close cousin of the mansard. Both mansard and gambrel roofs fall under the general classification of "curb roofs" (a pitched roof that slopes away from the ridge in two successive planes).[7] However, the mansard is a curb hip roof, with slopes on all sides of the building, and the gambrel is a curb gable roof, with slopes on only two sides. (The curb is a horizontal heavy timber directly under the intersection of the two roof surfaces.)

In France and Germany, no distinction is made between gambrels and mansards – they are both called "mansards". In the French language, mansarde can be a term for the style of roof, or for the garret living space, or attic, directly within it.[8]

Advantages of the mansard

Mansard rooftops along Boulevard Haussmann in Paris constructed during the Second French Empire.

The Mansard style makes maximum use of the interior space of the attic and offers a simple way to add one or more storeys to an existing (or new) building without necessarily requiring any masonry.[9][10] Often the decorative potential of the Mansard is exploited through the use of convex or concave curvature and with elaborate dormer window surrounds.

One frequently seen explanation for the popularity of the mansard style is that it served to shelter its owners against taxes as well as rain. One such example of this claim, from the 1914 book, How to Make a Country Place, reads, "Monsieur Mansard is said to have circumvented that senseless window tax of France by adapting the windowed roof that bears his name." This is improbable in many respects: Mansart was a profligate spender of his clients' money, and while a French window tax did exist, it was enacted in 1798, 132 years after Mansart's death, and did not exempt mansard windows.[11][12][13]

Later examples suggest that either French or American buildings were taxed by their height (or number of storeys) to the base of the roof, or that mansards were used to bypass zoning restrictions.[14][15] This last explanation is the nearest to the truth: a Parisian law had been in place since 1783, restricting the heights of buildings to 20 meters (65 feet).[16] The height was only measured up to the cornice line, making any living space contained in a mansard roof exempt.[17] A 1902 revision of the law permitted three or even four storeys to be contained in such a roof.[18]

History and use

Early use

The style was popularized in France by architect François Mansart (1598–1666). Although he was not the inventor of the style, his extensive and prominent use of it in his designs gave rise to the term "mansard roof", an adulteration of his name.[11] The design tradition was continued by numerous architects, including Jules Hardouin-Mansart, (1675–1683), his great nephew, who is responsible for Château de Dampierre in Dampierre-en-Yvelines.

Second Empire

The mansard roof became popular once again during Haussmann's renovation of Paris beginning in the 1850s, in an architectural movement known as "Second Empire style".

Second Empire influence spread throughout the world, frequently adopted for large civic structures such government administration buildings and city halls, as well as hotels and train stations. In the United States and Canada, and especially in New England, the Second Empire influence spread to family residences and mansions, often corrupted with Italianate and Gothic Revival elements. A mansard-topped tower became a popular element incorporated into many designs.[19][20][21]

20th century

The Germania Life Insurance Company Building in New York City, built in 1911, with a four-storey mansard roof[22]
A late-20th century block of modern mansard-topped residences in New Orleans.

The 1916 Zoning Resolution adopted by New York City promoted the use of mansard roofs; rules requiring the use of setbacks on tall buildings were conducive to the mansard design.[23][24]

In the late-1970s and 1980s, commercial builders became interested in postmodern stylistic elements and adapted the mansard for new residential housing and apartment buildings in many areas of the United States. The outward appearance of a mansard roof has also been adapted as a façade on numerous small commercial buildings. These are not true mansard roofs in most cases; they are actually flat roofs and the sloped façade provides a way to conceal heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment from persons at ground level.

See also


  1. ^ AMHER, 4th edition, 2000: mansard.
  2. ^ Princeton University, WordNet 3.0: mansard.
  3. ^ Rockhill, Maryland, Architecture Glossary, "Mansard"
  4. ^ Michael Roberts & Associates, Building Terms: "Mansard"
  5. ^ Western Architecture - France
  6. ^ Francis Alexander, House Proud, "Glossary - House Style Definitions": mansard
  7. ^ Dictionary of Architecture & Construction, C.M. Harris.
  8. ^ Le Robert & Collins Senior (2002), Dictionnaire français-anglais (French-English Dictionary), Paris : Dictionnaires Le Robert-VUEF.
  9. ^ "Permadeck, ''Modern 'Mansard' - a flat roof on top of a slated or tiled pitch''". Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  10. ^ Boston (Mass.). Commissioners to Investigate the Great Fire (1873), ''Report of the Commissioners appointed to investigate the cause and ...'', volume 1, Boston: Rockwell & Churchill. 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  11. ^ a b "Francois Mansart (French architect) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  12. ^ Peter Eisenman (2007), ''Written into the void: selected writings, 1990-2004'' New Haven: Yale University Press. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  13. ^ United States. Bureau of Manufactures & Bureau of Foreign Commerce (1854-1903), ''Monthly consular and trade reports'', volume 28, issues 98-100, United States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor. Bureau of Statistics. 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  14. ^ Sufficient reason: volitional ... - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  15. ^ Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania: "an image ... - Google Books. 2009-07-18. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  16. ^ European cities & technology ... - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  17. ^ Reports from committees - Google Books. 2009-05-28. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  18. ^ The autumn of central Paris: the ... - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  19. ^ American homes: the illustrated ... - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  20. ^ American houses: a field guide to ... - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  21. ^ Victorian houses of Mississippi - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Report of the Heights of buildings ... — Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  24. ^ Final report, June 2, 1916 — Google Books. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • mansard roof — mansard UK [ˈmænsɑː(r)d] / US [ˈmænˌsɑrd] or mansard roof UK / US noun [countable] Word forms mansard : singular mansard plural mansards Word forms mansard roof : singular mansard roof plural mansard roofs a roof that slopes at a steeper angle at …   English dictionary

  • Mansard roof — Man sard roof [So called from its inventor, Fran[,c]ois Mansard, or Mansart, a distinguished French architect, who died in 1666.] (Arch.) A hipped curb roof; that is, a roof having on all sides two slopes, the lower one being steeper than the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mansard (roof) — or mansard [man′särd] n. 〚Fr mansarde, after F. Mansard (1598 1666), Fr architect, who revived the use of such roofs〛 a roof with two slopes on each of the four sides, the lower steeper than the upper * * * …   Universalium

  • mansard (roof) — or mansard [man′särd] n. [Fr mansarde, after F. Mansard (1598 1666), Fr architect, who revived the use of such roofs] a roof with two slopes on each of the four sides, the lower steeper than the upper …   English World dictionary

  • mansard (roof) — or mansard [man′särd] n. [Fr mansarde, after F. Mansard (1598 1666), Fr architect, who revived the use of such roofs] a roof with two slopes on each of the four sides, the lower steeper than the upper …   English World dictionary

  • mansard-roof — /manˈsärd roof/ noun A roof having its angle divided to slope more steeply in the lower part than in the upper (also manˈsard) ORIGIN: François Mansard or Mansart (1598–1666), French architect …   Useful english dictionary

  • mansard roof — noun a hip roof having two slopes on each side • Syn: ↑mansard • Derivationally related forms: ↑mansard (for: ↑mansard) • Hypernyms: ↑curb roof …   Useful english dictionary

  • mansard roof — /ˈmænsad ruf/ (say mansahd roohf), / səd/ (say suhd) noun a roof having two pitches, the upper slopes being flatter than the lower ones, usually with rooms in the roof space having dormer windows. Also, mansard. {named after François Mansart,… …   Australian-English dictionary

  • mansard roof — noun a) A roof having two slopes on each side, the lower one having a steeper pitch than the upper; this increases the volume of the enclosed space. b) A steeper roof that terminates into a flat roof at its high point …   Wiktionary

  • mansard-roof — n. Curb roof, gambrel roof …   New dictionary of synonyms

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