Mansard roof

A mansard or mansard roof (also called a Duch 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 and more vertical than the upper[1][2] punctured by dormer windows[3] to create additional 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] and became especially fashionable during the Second French Empire (1852–1870)[6] of Napoléon III.

Identifying a mansardEdit

Wik 22 Szczecin Pałac Sejmu Stanów Pomorskich

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, 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 Edit


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 every respect: 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 Edit

Early use Edit

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 Edit

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 Edit

Germania Life Insurance Company Building

The Germania Life Building in New York City, built in 1911, with a four-storey mansard roof[22]

Mansard Madness

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 Post-Modern stylistic elements and adapted the mansard for new residential housing and apartment buildings in many areas of the U.S.

See alsoEdit


  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
  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
  11. 11.0 11.1
  12. Peter Eisenman (2007), Written into the void: selected writings, 1990-2004 New Haven: Yale University Press
  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.

External linksEdit

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