n. A light structure on a dome or roof, serving as a belfry, lantern, or belvedere. A dome, especially one covering a circular or polygonal area.
What Does Cupola Mean in Architecture?
In architecture, cupolas are relatively small, often dome-like, tall structures on top of a building. They usually crown a larger roof or dome, but can also top a spire, tower, or turret. They were traditionally used as lookouts or to hold a bell or clock, but in modern usage they are most commonly used to provide natural light or ventilation to the building below. Along the ocean, larger cupolas that are accessible from the inside are generally referred to as “widow’s walks.” Cupolas have enjoyed steady popularity in American architecture since the Revolutionary War.
What Makes Up a Cupola?
Cupolas can be round, square, hexagonal, or octagonal, and are comprised of three basic parts: the base, the vents, and the cap. The size of the base is determined by the slope or pitch of the roof. A general rule of thumb is a minimum of 1.25” of cupola for every foot of unbroken roof ridge line, but longer rooflines can benefit from two smaller cupolas as opposed to one large cupola.
In the middle, the “vents” can be louvers, windows, or a combination of both. The choice of vents is dependant on whether you are looking to add ventilation to a space or bring in natural light. Windows are a great way to brighten up a shed or garage, while louvers help remove moisture from attics, helping prevent rot, mold and mildew.
The cap typically has a distinctive shape - such as bell or concave - to both add a striking visual element and help shed rain, snow, leaves, and other debris. Durable metals are generally chosen for the cap, from painted aluminum to polished or patinated copper. For a final flourish, the caps are often topped with a finial or weathervane.
Find Your Cupola at Valley Forge Cupolas and Weathervanes
If you are still wondering, “What does cupola mean?”, call us today at 866-400-1776 to talk to the cupola specialists! We will help you choose the perfect cupola design and custom elements that will make a beautiful, lasting addition to your home.