From pre-Mansart to post-mansard. The Dutch gambrel roof in international context

Bulletin KNOB. 2018;:28-48 DOI 10.7480/knob.117.2018.1.2027


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Journal Title: Bulletin KNOB

ISSN: 0166-0470 (Print); 2589-3343 (Online)

Publisher: TU Delft Open

Society/Institution: Koninklijke Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond

LCC Subject Category: Fine Arts: Architecture: Architectural drawing and design | History (General) and history of Europe

Country of publisher: Netherlands

Language of fulltext: Dutch; Flemish

Full-text formats available: PDF



Dik de Roon


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Time From Submission to Publication: 12 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Mansard roofs get only an occasional mention in modern Dutch works on the history of building construction. The successful spread of mansard roofs came in two waves: in the seventeenth century, with an extension into the eighteenth, and in the second half of the nineteenth century. This article deals with both periods and addresses the question of how the development of this roof type in the Netherlands compares with that in neighbouring countries, concluding with its application in private houses in Amsterdam in the second half of the nineteenth century. Although the country of origin cannot be definitively determined, France’s leading part in the development and spread of this roof, in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is undisputed. The earliest documented example dates from 1546, long before the birth of François Mansart (1598-1666), who popularized the roof and so gave it his name. The reasons for preferring mansard roofs to the much older saddle roofs are both functional and architectural in nature. In the seventeenth century, large buildings with mansard roofs started to appear in England and Scotland, possibly under French influence; in Germany, after one or two early examples, the mansard roof gained ground from 1700 onwards. From the very beginning there was a wide variety of structures and roof pitches. Interestingly, the Germans preferred a steeper upper slope than the French and their roofs were often structurally heavier than their French counterparts. The mansard roof appeared early on in the Netherlands; it is possible that the broken roof on the Amsterdam Bushuis from 1550 is the earliest example. Under the Republic, despite a few seventeenth-century specimens, the mansard roof only really started to take off in the course of the eighteenth century, notably on large and prominent buildings. In the nineteenth century the mansard roof was used on a large scale on urban residential buildings. Once again, France was the instigator of a wave of mansard roofs that on this occasion spread rapidly to many parts of the world. In Paris in particular this resulted in a roofscape dominated by the mansard roof. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the first rapidly and cheaply built housing blocks started to spring up in Amsterdam. In many of the urban expansion schemes such blocks were given continuous roofs with a ridge line parallel to the building line. Although a light-weight structure was used for the mansard roof in the second half of the nineteenth century, probably to save on material and costs, there were many variations in appearance. Characteristic features of the mansard roof gradually disappeared between 1860 and 1920, until a virtually vertical structure with a flat roof remained.