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Archiscape Blog


Posted on December 10, 2010 by Karin • Filed under:

These are terms from the architecture of New France:


A rampart is a type of defensive wall.  A defensive wall is a fortification used to defend a city or settlement from potential aggressors. In ancient to modern times, they were used to enclose settlements. Generally, these are referred to as city walls or town walls, although there were also walls, such as the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall, and the metaphorical Atlantic Wall, which extended far beyond the borders of a city and were used to enclose regions or mark territorial boundaries. Beyond their defensive utility many walls also had important symbolic functions — representing the status and independence of the communities they embraced.


A mansard or mansard roof (also called a French roof) is a four-sided gambrel (see below)-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 punctured by dormer windows to create additional habitable space, 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 Francois Mansart (1598–1666), an accomplished architect of the French Baroque period, and became especially fashionable during the Second French Empire (1852–1870) of Napoléon III.


A gambrel (also known as a Dutch gambrel) is a usually-symmetrical two-sided roof with two slopes on each side. The upper slope is positioned at a shallow angle, while the lower slope is steep. This design provides the advantages of a sloped roof while maximizing headroom on the building’s upper level. The name comes from the Medieval Latin word gamba, meaning horse’s hock or leg.

The cross-section of a gambrel roof is similar to that of a mansard roof, but a gambrel has vertical gable ends instead of being hipped at the four corners of the building. A gambrel roof overhangs the façade, whereas a mansard normally does not.


A groin vault or groined vault (also sometimes known as a double barrel vault or cross vault) is produced by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults. The word groin refers to the edge between the intersecting vaults; cf. ribbed vault. Sometimes the arches of groin vaults are pointed instead of round (see the image of the Gårdslösa Church below). In comparison with a barrel vault, a groin vault provides good economies of material and labour. The thrust is concentrated along the groins or arrises (the four diagonal edges formed along the points where the barrel vaults intersect), so the vault need only be abutted at its four corners.

Groin vault construction was first exploited by the Romans, but then fell into relative obscurity in Europe until the resurgence of quality stone building brought about by Carolingian and Romanesque architecture. It was superseded by the more flexible rib vaults of Gothic architecture in the later Middle Ages. Difficult to construct neatly because of the geometry of the cross groins (usually elliptical in cross section), the groin vault required great skill in cutting stone to form a neat arris.


A barrel vault, also known as a tunnel vault or a wagon vault, is an architectural element formed by the extrusion of a single curve (or pair of curves, in the case of a pointed barrel vault) along a given distance. The curves are typically circular in shape, lending a semi-cylindrical appearance to the total design. The barrel vault is the simplest form of a vault: effectively a series of arches placed side by side, i.e., one after another. It is a form of barrel roof.

As with all arch-based constructions, there is an outward thrust generated against the walls underneath a barrel vault. There are several mechanisms for absorbing this thrust. One is, of course, to make the walls exceedingly thick and strong – this is a primitive and sometimes unacceptable method. A more elegant method is to build two or more vaults parallel to each other; the forces of their outward thrusts will thus negate each other. This method was most often used in construction of churches, where several vaulted naves ran parallel down the length of the building.


Located in Québec City’s lower town, along the St. Lawrence River, Place Royale burgeoned alongside the second habitation built by Samuel de Champlain between 1623 and 1626. On a plan showing Québec City in 1660, Jean Bourdon identified the area as a parade ground (place d’armes). In 1685 Robert de Villeneuve called it a marketplace, which was essentially its main purpose from the 17th to the 19th century. This public square, with its houses for the most part rebuilt following a fire in lower town in 1682, became known as Place Royale in 1686 when Intendant Jean Bochart de Champigny had a bust of King Louis XIV erected at its centre. Today, the name Place Royale not only refers to the square itself but also to the surrounding urban area.


The Place d’Armes (Arms Square) in the Upper Town of Quebec is Old Québec’s busy main square.

This square, located in front of the Chateau Frontenac, comes to life during the summer months with performers and entertainers.