Atrium (architecture)

Atrium (architecture)

In modern architecture, an atrium (plural atria) is a large open space, often several stories high and having a glazed roof and/or large windows, often situated within an office building and usually located immediately beyond the main entrance doors. Atria are popular with companies because they give their buildings "a feeling of space and light", but have been criticised by fire inspectors as they could allow fire to spread to a building's upper stories more quickly.


The Latin word "atrium" referred to the open central court, from which the enclosed rooms led off, in the type of large ancient Roman house known as a domus.

The impluvium was the shallow pool sunken into the floor to catch the rainwater. Some surviving examples are beautifully decorated. The opening in the ceiling above the pool called for some means of support for the roof. And it is here where one differentiates between five different styles of atrium.

Types of atria

* atrium tuscanium: This type had no columns. The weight of the ceiling was carried by the rafters. Though expensive to build, it seems to have been the most widespread type of atrium in the Roman house.
* atrium tetrastylum: This type had one column at each corner of the impluvium.
* atrium corinthium: This type was similar to the atrium tetrastylum but had a greater opening in the roof and a greater number of columns.
* atrium displuviatum: The roof actually sloped towards the side walls, so a large amount of rainwater ran off into other outlets than the impluvium.
* atrium testudinatum: This atrium had no opening in the roof at all and was only seen in small, unimportant houses.

As the centrepiece of the house the atrium was the most lavishly furnished room. Also it contained the little chapel to the ancestral spirits (lararium), the household safe (arca) and sometimes a bust of the master of the house.

Tallest atrium

As of 2007, Dubai's Burj Al Arab, has the tallest atrium. The Burj Al Arab was built to impress and to iconize the urban development in the city of Dubai, and currently it is considered to be the most significant landmark of the city.

Largest atrium

The Luxor Hotel has the largest atrium in the world at 29 million cubic feet (820,000 m³).

Glazed atrium

The 19th century brought the industrial revolution with great advances in iron and glass manufacturing techniques. Courtyards could then have horizontal glazing overhead, eliminating some of the weather elements from the space and giving birth to the modern atrium.

One of the main public spaces at Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia is called The Atrium and is a street-like space, 5-stories high with glazed walls and roof. The structure and glazing pattern follow the system of fractals used to arrange the panels on the rest of the facades at Federation Square.

Examples of modern-day atria

ee also

* Courtyard
* Quadrangle


* pp. 520

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • atrium — [ atrijɔm ] n. m. • 1547; mot lat. 1 ♦ Antiq. Cour intérieure de la maison romaine, généralement entourée d un portique couvert. L atrium avec son bassin central (⇒ impluvium) . 2 ♦ Anat. Cavité (d un organe). Les atriums du cœur. ● atrium nom… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Atrium — • An open place or court before a church Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Atrium     Atrium     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

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  • atrium — atrial, adj. /ay tree euhm/, n., pl. atria /ay tree euh/, atriums. 1. Archit. a. Also called cavaedium. the main or central room of an ancient Roman house, open to the sky at the center and usually having a pool for the collection of rain water.… …   Universalium

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