Building Language: Frieze

Written by on November 20, 2012 in Building Language - No comments
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Frieze. A frieze is another architectural term with roots in classical architecture. A frieze is a horizontal band, often decorative or ornamental in nature, located along the top of an exterior or interior wall. Classically speaking, the frieze would be part of the entablature, which is the architectural features found above the columns, which also included a cornice – the top molding of the classical order. However, a frieze can be generally applied to a horizontal band of ornament found in many locations on a historic building. Some friezes may feature some type of ornamental inscription while others may include carved figures or details.

Frieze on the Indiana World War Memorial

There are many great examples of friezes across Indianapolis, I’ve found two examples to highlight today. The Indiana World War Memorial, part of the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, features a colonnade that is topped with a typical, classical entablature. This frieze features the inscription text “Indiana World War Memorial” flanked on both sides with foliated wreaths. The cornice features other classical ornament included dentils and egg-and-dart. This example of a frieze is very classically inspired and is found across many Classical Revival/Neo-Classical designs in the United States.

Frieze on the Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library (40 East Saint Clair Street)

Another Neo-Classical structure in Indianapolis is the Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library (40 East Saint Clair Street). This design also features a frieze in the classical motifs, but this frieze differs in the use of decorated panels featuring the names of famous writers and philosophers in history (see: Voltaire and Goethe in this detail, others include Home, Emerson, Shakespeare, Plato, Dante, and Cervantes). This frieze also features festoon between the decorative panels. More notably, perhaps, is the inclusion of a buffalo in the middle festoon – one can assume this is a nod to the State of Indiana.

Add it to your vocabulary – how might one use today’s Building Language term in their everyday life?

The detail on the frieze was hard to decipher from the ground.

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About the Author

Raina Regan is an architectural historian employed by the Indiana National Guard. Her work encompasses statewide cultural resources projects with National Register eligible or listed structures. Raina has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Visual Culture from Michigan State University and a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Ball State University. Raina is an Indiana import by way of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan and loves the culture and architecture of the Midwest.

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