Indiana War Memorial, Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, Balustrade along staircase to second level.

Balustrade. Today’s Building Language term is commonly used as part of the architectural vernacular and an item ubiquitous around Indianapolis. The balustrade is the plural of a baluster, which is defined as a singular, vertical support, on which a railing rests. The design of an individual baluster can vary depending on its placement and use, from square or circular, to wood or stone, and simple to ornamented. A balustrade is a row of balusters that supports a railing. The balustrade is utilized in various methods on both the exterior and interior of a building.

Balustrade is routinely applied when referencing the parts of a staircase. An example is the stone, ornamental, columned balustrade leading to the secondary level of the Indiana War Memorial.  Each baluster features a bulb shape and rests on a base. The balustrade terminates at each level with a square pedestal. For those readers with a staircase in your home, your stairwell most likely features some variation of this balustrade.

Indianapolis Athletic Club, 350 North Meridian Street, Balustrade located between each arched opening.

Balustrades can also be used as an ornamental feature. When a series of balusters are extended between two walls, columns, or pedestals, the balustrade forms a type of open parapet wall. An example of an ornamental balustrade is found on the Indianapolis Athletic Club building at 350 North Meridian Street. The set of five arched windows located along the third floor of the east elevation include balustrades between each column. The stone balustrade acts primarily as an ornamental feature, while providing some visual appearance of a railing for a balcony.

Balustrade on 5164 North Illinois Street, Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood

The balustrade can also be placed on top of a flat roof, frequently above first floor spaces that extend out from the primary structure. One example of this is found at 5164 North Illinois Street, located in the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood. This balustrade lines the rectangular first floor space on the east elevation, with a wood balustrade and wood columns.

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

Touring a wonderful Queen Anne home, I remark, “The wood balustrade on that staircase includes such detailed woodworking. I can only imagine the time it took to carve each baluster.”

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