Soffit on the Central Library (40 East Saint Clair Street)

Soffit. A soffitdescribes an exposed underside of an architectural element, such as an arch, cornice, eave, staircase, balcony, or beam. The underside could be elaborately ornamented or unadorned. It’s likely you’ll find a soffit in almost every historic building if you are looking in the right place. This is an architectural term with a wide range of uses, so let’s dive into examining a few.

The term soffit has ties to classical architecture, so we’ll start there. The Neo-Classically designed Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library (40 East Saint Clair Street) is a great example of a classical use of the soffit. This 1916 design by Paul Phillipe Cret features an ornamented soffit, with simple dot-like ornament (called gutta) separated by a projecting flat block (called mutule). This soffit is a typical presentation of the Doric architectural order. Next time you swing by the Central Library, look up for this simple (but important) classical, architectural feature.

Soffit on the tower on Holy Rosary Parish (520 Stevens Street)

The Holy Rosary Church (520 Stevens Street), located in the Holy Rosary-Danish Church Historic District, is a 1910 Italian Renaissancedesign by Kopf & Wooling. The two towers feature an exposed soffit along the roofline with simple brackets. This deep roof eave creates a soffit with space for ornamentation.

Detail of a soffit, residence in 500 Block of Woodruff Place Middle Drive

Lastly, I thought I’d share a more simple soffit example, found on this residence in the 500 Block of Woodruff Place Middle Drive. The wide eaves allow for the creation of a soffit along the roofline. This simple soffit features a plain, painted underside across the entire roofline.

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

Check out the hole in that soffit – I think birds have started a nest in there!

2 responses to “Building Language: Soffit”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    Plan to keep up with this informative narrative.

  2. P.j. says:

    Yes, please continue to show examples & give definitions for architectural elements from old buildings: more common ornamentation like lintels, corbels, etc.–also some obscure names that aren’t used often anymore.

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