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Recess

RECESS This word is so familiar as to need no explanation, and it can hardly be classed among architectural terms; but that the subject of recesses should hitherto hardly have been treated of at all by professional writers, is somewhat remarkable, because there is nothing which con tributes more to effect, or affords greater scope for design and fresh combinations in interior architecture. We shall here briefly notice the several circumstances which belong to recesses, and which tend to modify their character. Besides those of plan, elevation, and section, there are others, one of which is that of relative size, as compared with the rest of the plan. Ordinary shallow recesses—which kind might be distinguished by the name of blank recesses, since they are little more than breaks in the wall, and do not at all affect the general plan of a room—hardly belong to the subject, since they admit of scarcely any variety. By recesses we here mean those which come under the denomination of exhedrse, tribunes, alcoves, and afford considerable additional space. In plan these may be either curved or rectilinear, that is, semicircular (like the tribune of a Roman basilica) or segmental; or else polygonal, or rectangular, in which latter case the plan may be either a parallelogram, or so deep as to bo a perfect square. Neither are these the only varieties of,plan, for in each instance the recess may be either simple or expanded, that is, wider within than the breadth of the opening towards the room. If the plan be curved, it is usual to make the elevation in the form of an arch, either plain or decorated; in which latter case, it is sometimes the practice either to continue the archivolt without any impost, or to make it rest upon the entablature or capitals of pilasters. Elevations of this class however are only aslylar: it is when columns come to be introduced into them, that alcoves admit of so many combinations and so much variety of design. The usual mode indeed is merely to separate the recessed part of the plan from the rest by a single line of columns, or rather, by only two columns, forming a distyle in antis,—that number being seldom exceeded; but it is by introducing columns behind and within—by extending the recess either laterally or in its background—by admitting light into it from above— that novel and scenic effects may here be produced almost without number. As regards utility and convenience, it is unnece>sary to point out the advantage attending a deep alcove for the side-board in a dining-room, communicating immediately with a staircase for the attendants,—of which kind the tribune in the dining-room at Holkham furnishes one of the earliest and best examples; but alcoves and recesses add also to the commodiousness of other apartments—libraries, drawing-rooms, &c, affording nooks for study, or conversation apart, similarly to the spacious bays and recesses of that kind in Gothic mansions.

Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)

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