Mansard roofs first became popular in the 17th century and they had multiple comebacks over time since then. This type of roof was popularized by Francois Mansart and was eventually named after him. However, he wasn’t the first one to build a mansard roof. That action can be attributed to Pierre Lescot who built it in the 1550s as part of the Louvre.
But what is a mansard roof exactly? From an architectural point of view, this type of roof is defined by two slopes on each of its sides. The lower slope sits at a steeper angle than the upper one and has multiple dormer windows. Such a roof basically adds another habitable floor to a building, turning the attic into a spacious and comfortable space with few restrictions when it comes to interior design.
A mansard roof is sometimes also known as a French roof or a curb roof. After its initial debut, it became fashionable again during the reign of Napoleon III during a period known as the Second Empire. The mansard roof’s popularity was revived in the 1850’s during the rebuilding of Paris. It became a fashionable architectural feature for most of the building from that period.
During the Second Empire period, this type of roof was used to top towers rather than across the full width of a building. Later, in the 19th century, the mansard roof became a common feature for many buildings from both Europe and North America. It became a common feature not just for large structures but also for private homes.
At one time the houses in France were taxed by their height or by the number of floors below the roof. The peculiar design of the mansard roof allowed people to go around that and to add an extra floor to their homes without paying taxes for it or even without requiring additional masonry. This type of roof provided builders with an easy way to add one or more floors to a building without a lot of planning.
In Europe, the concept of mansard defines not just the roof itself but also the interior space of the attic. It’s a design that allows a maximum use of the interior space of the attic thanks to the gentle slopes and the presence of the windows.
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