Coffer


Coffer
Coffering on the ceiling of the Pantheon, Rome

A coffer (or coffering) in architecture, is a sunken panel in the shape of a square, rectangle, or octagon in a ceiling, soffit or vault.[1] A series of these sunken panels were 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. 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 fillings the lacunae.[5] Wooden coffers were first made by crossing the wooden beams of a ceiling in the Loire Valley châteaux of the early Renaissance.[6]

Experimentation with the possible shapes of 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.

In ancient Chinese wooden architecture, coffering is known as zaojing (Chinese: 藻井; pinyin: zǎojǐng).[7]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Ching, Francis D.K. (1995). A Visual Dictionary of Architecture. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. p. 30. ISBN 0-471-82451-3. 
  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.
  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". Encyclopedia Britannica Online. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9024646/coffer. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  7. ^ Ching et al., Francis D.K. (2007). A Global History of Architecture. New York: John Wiley and Sons. p. 787. ISBN 0-471-82451-3. 

External links


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  • Coffer — Cof fer (?; 115), n. [OF. cofre, F. coffre, L. cophinus basket, fr. Gr. ?. Cf. {Coffin}, n.] 1. A casket, chest, or trunk; especially, one used for keeping money or other valuables. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] In ivory coffers I have stuffed my… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Coffer — Cof fer, v. t. 1. To put into a coffer. Bacon. [1913 Webster] 2. (Mining.) To secure from leaking, as a shaft, by ramming clay behind the masonry or timbering. Raymond. [1913 Webster] 3. To form with or in a coffer or coffers; to furnish with a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • coffer — [kôf′ər, käf′ər] n. [ME < OFr cofre, a chest < L cophinus: see COFFIN] 1. a chest or strongbox for keeping money or valuables 2. [pl.] a treasury; funds 3. a decorative sunken panel as in a vault, dome, etc. 4. a cofferdam 5. a lock in a… …   English World dictionary

  • coffer — I noun area, bank, cista, container, depository, holder, locker, money chest, receptacle, safe, safe deposit box, storage, strongbox, till, treasury, vault II index bank, depository, repository …   Law dictionary

  • coffer — UK US /ˈkɒfər/ noun ► [C] a large strong box in which money or valuable objects are kept ● coffers Cf. coffers …   Financial and business terms

  • coffer — mid 13c., from O.Fr. cofre a chest (12c., Mod.Fr. coffre), from L. cophinus basket (see COFFIN (Cf. coffin)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • coffer — [n] large box case, casket, chest, exchequer, repository, strongbox, treasure chest, treasury, war chest*; concept 494 …   New thesaurus

  • coffer — ► NOUN 1) a small chest for holding valuables. 2) (coffers) the funds or financial reserves of an institution. 3) a decorative sunken panel in a ceiling. ORIGIN Old French coffre chest , from Greek kophinos basket …   English terms dictionary

  • coffer — UK [ˈkɒfə(r)] / US [ˈkɑfər] noun Word forms coffer : singular coffer plural coffers 1) coffers [plural] the supply of money that an organization has available to spend 2) [countable] a large strong box used for keeping valuable things in,… …   English dictionary

  • coffer — I. noun Etymology: Middle English coffre, from Anglo French, ultimately from Latin cophinus basket, from Greek kophinos Date: 13th century 1. chest; especially strongbox 2. treasury, funds usually used in plural 3. a recessed panel in a vault,… …   New Collegiate Dictionary