Coffer

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Coffering on the ceiling of the Pantheon, Rome
Coffered ceilings of Mir Castle, Belarus.

A coffer (or coffering) in architecture is a series of sunken panels in the shape of a square, rectangle, or octagon in a ceiling, soffit or vault.[1] A series of these sunken panels was often used as decoration for a ceiling or a vault, also called caissons ("boxes"), or lacunaria ("spaces, openings"),[2] so that a coffered ceiling can be called a lacunar ceiling: the strength of the structure is in the framework of the coffers.

History[edit]

The stone coffers of the ancient Greeks[3] and Romans[4] are the earliest surviving examples, but a seventh-century BC Etruscan chamber tomb in the necropolis of San Giuliano, which is cut in soft tufa-like stone reproduces a ceiling with beams and cross-beams lying on them, with flat panels filling the lacunae.[5] For centuries, it was thought that wooden coffers were first made by crossing the wooden beams of a ceiling in the Loire Valley châteaux of the early Renaissance.[6] In 2012, however, archaeologists working under Andrew Wallace-Hadrill at the House of the Telephus in Herculaneum discovered that wooden coffered ceilings were constructed in Roman times.[7] Experimentation with the possible shapes in coffering, which solve problems of mathematical tiling, or tessellation, were a feature of Islamic as well as Renaissance architecture; the more complicated problems of diminishing the scale of the individual coffers were presented by the requirements of curved surfaces of vaults and domes.

A prominent example of Roman coffering, employed to lighten the weight of the dome, can be found in the ceiling of the rotunda dome in the Pantheon, Rome.

Asian architecture[edit]

In ancient Chinese wooden architecture, coffering is known as zaojing (Chinese: 藻井; pinyin: zǎojǐng).[8]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Ching, Francis D.K. (1995). A Visual Dictionary of Architecture. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 30. ISBN 0-471-28451-3.
  2. ^ An alternative, in a description of Domitian's audience hall by Statius, noted by Ulrich 2007:156, is laquearia, not a copyist's error, as it appears in Manilius' Astronomica (1.533, quoted by Ulrich).
  3. ^ An example is the main hieron at Samothrace, where stone ceiling beams of the pronaos carried a coffered ceiling of marble slabs across a span of about 6.15 m (J.J. Coulton, Ancient Greek Architects at Work: Problems of Structure and Design (Cornell University Press) 1982:147. ISBN 978-0801492341
  4. ^ Roman wooden coffered ceilings are discussed in Roger Bradley Ulrich, Roman Woodworking, ch. "Roofing and ceilings" (Yale University Press) 2007.
  5. ^ Illustrated in Ulrich, fig 8.27.
  6. ^ "coffer". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  7. ^ Hooper, John (2012-07-23). "House of the Telephus Relief: raising the roof on Roman real estate". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-01-16. Buried by Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, archaeologists at Herculaneum have excavated and carried out the first-ever full reconstruction of the timber roof of a Roman villa
  8. ^ Ching, Francis D.K.; et al. (2007). A Global History of Architecture. New York: John Wiley and Sons. p. 787. ISBN 0-471-26892-5.

External links[edit]