Looking at Buildings

Styles & Traditions


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Rome, archway of rusticated travertine, A.D. 46

RusticationGlossary Term is a form of exterior ornamentation particular to buildings in the classicalGlossary Term style. It is defined by projecting stones with sunken joints or grooves conveying an air of deliberate roughness and strength. The effect is usually produced by chamfering or rebating each block of stone at an angle of 45 degrees so as to produce a right angle joint (or V-joint). Other types of grooves include the channelled groove (or U-joint) and the curved groove. The faces of the raised blocks are often carved.

RusticationGlossary Term made its way into the classicalGlossary Term repertory of English architects through Italian RenaissanceGlossary Term architects and in imitation of the effect of Antique ruins. The roughness of the ruined stone captured the imagination of RenaissanceGlossary Term and later architects. There were also numerous examples of the self-conscious use of rusticationGlossary Term by the Ancients on city walls, bridges, amphitheatres and even on temple cellas. RusticationGlossary Term therefore had authority as a classicalGlossary Term motif.

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London, Atlas Insurance, Cheapside
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Rustication, Tuscan Order

RusticationGlossary Term is generally associated with the lowest storey of a classicalGlossary Term building, the rough stones being expressive of strength and therefore, logically, required at the baseGlossary Term of the building. The standard formula of 17th and 18th-century classicalGlossary Term country houses was to have two or three storeys of smooth stone over a rusticated ground floor. This also reflected the social functioning of the houses: the servants' quarters were behind the rusticated level while the owners' rooms were above. The same formula was used for commercial buildings, even though the division of functions was necessarily different.

RusticationGlossary Term was associated by RenaissanceGlossary Term architects with the simplest of classicalGlossary Term OrdersGlossary Term, the TuscanGlossary Term OrderGlossary Term. In his PiazzaGlossary Term at Covent Garden, Inigo Jones has shown how rusticationGlossary Term made possible and also considerably enriched the use of the TuscanGlossary Term OrderGlossary Term on a grand scale. Inigo Jones's source was the Antique RomanGlossary Term amphitheatre at Verona.

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Rustication, St Paul's
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Banded rustication

But for all its general associations with the lowest level of a classicalGlossary Term building, there are many examples of major buildings where rusticationGlossary Term is used to ornament the whole facade. In buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral, rusticationGlossary Term is conceived of as a sober ornament capable of dressing a facade with monumentality and of expressing the 'mass' of the building.

John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) is famous for expressing the mass of masonry even more forcibly by using banded rusticationGlossary Term, in which only the horizontal grooves are emphasized. At Belnheim Palace, he juxtaposes blocks of banded rusticationGlossary Term with strong vertical elements such as giant columns.

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Rustication, York Water Gate

Individual architectural motifs are also frequently rusticated. BlockedGlossary Term or banded columns are often used to emphasise entrances. They are also characteristic of rusticated garden gateways. BlockedGlossary Term architraveGlossary Term surrounds were made popular in England by James Gibbs (1682-1754) and are often referred to as Gibbs surrounds. Again, these were used to ornament the most important windows on the first floor of a house for example.

Three of the major types of carving are:

  • Picked-work or a simple chiselling or chipping of the stone surface to produce a general rough effect
  • VermiculationGlossary Term or the carving of stones with sinuous lines in imitation of the tracks left by worms (there are many variants of this type)
  • Frost-workGlossary Term (glaciation) where the faces of the stones are sculpted with imitations of icicles and stalactites. This is the particular ornament of classicalGlossary Term grottos, cascade houses and some garden gateways.
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Rustication, vermiculation
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Frost-work (glaciation)
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Rustication, picked work



Formalized lintel, the lowest member of the entablature in classical architecture. Also the moulded frame of a door or window (often borrowing the profile of a classical architrave). Lugged: a moulded frame with horizontal projections at the top. Shouldered: similar, but with vertical projections in addition.

Banded rustication

Rustication (the exaggerated treatment of masonry to give an effect of strength), with only the horizontal joints emphasized.


Moulded foot of a column or pilaster. An Attic base is the form used on an Ionic column, with two large convex rings joined by a spreading convex moulding.


Interrupted by regular projecting blocks (blocking), as on a Gibbs surround.


A term used for the architecture of Ancient Greece and Rome, revived at the Renaissance and subsequently imitated around the Western world. It uses a range of conventional forms, the roots of which are the orders, or types of column each with its fixed proportions and ornaments (especially Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Classical buildings tend also to be symmetrical, both externally and on plan. Classical architecture in England began c. 1530 with applied ornamental motifs, followed within a few decades by fully-fledged new buildings.


A form of rustication (the exaggerated treatment of masonry to give an effect of strength), treated like icicles or stalactites; also called glaciation.


One of a series of recessed arches and jambs forming a splayed medieval opening, e.g. a doorway or arcade arch. Also, an upright structural member used in series, especially in classical architecture: see Orders.


The differently formalized versions of the basic post-and-lintel (column and entablature) system in classical architecture. The main orders are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. They are Greek in origin but occur in Roman versions. Tuscan is a simple variant of Roman Doric. The Composite capital combines Ionic volutes with Corinthian foliage. Though each order has its own conventions of design and proportion, there are many minor variations. Superimposed orders: orders on successive levels, customarily in the upward sequence of Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite.


Formal urban open space surrounded by buildings.


The revival of classical architecture that began in 15th-century Italy and spread through Western Europe and the Americas in the following two centuries, finding distinctive forms and interpretations in different states and regions. From c. 1830 the Italian version was revived in Britain as a style in its own right (sometimes called Neo-Renaissance or Italianate), i.e. as distinguished from the native Georgian classical tradition.


The architecture of the Roman Empire, to which most of Britain belonged from 43 to c. 410 A.D. Our knowledge of Romano-British architecture depends mostly on archaeological reconstructions from foundations and fragments, though some notable fortifications and other military works survive above ground level in recognizable form.


Exaggerated treatment of masonry to give an effect of strength. The joints are usually recessed, by V-section chamfering or square-section channelling (channelled rustication). Banded rustication has only the horizontal joints emphasized. The faces may be flat, but can be diamond-faced, like shallow pyramids, vermiculated, with a stylized texture like worm-casts, and glacial, like icicles or stalactites (also called frost-work). Rusticated columns may have their shafts treated in any of these ways.


One of the orders of classical architecture, a simpler variant of Roman Doric.


A form of rustication, the exaggerated treatment of masonry to give an effect of strength, with a stylized texture like worm-casts.