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word of the week: QUOIN

September 12, 2010

QUOIN: The corner of a masonry building that is differentiated from the rest of  its facade by material, color, texture size or projection. Quoins have a purely decorative purpose in buildings.

Pictured is the highly sculptural quoining at the corner of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Building (originally the Illinois Athletic Club).

Click on the image to ENLARGE it!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2010 8:21 am

    There was a time (not that long ago) when quoins were not purely decorative. Builders needed the most precisely cut stones for the corners, but they could get away with rougher material for the wall itself. Eventually it became a design element.

    • September 13, 2010 10:38 am

      Thanks for the interesting information! I had no idea. I wonder in what way they could have served a structural purpose.

      • October 21, 2010 9:33 am

        I can answer that. The larger blocks are much less likely to move over time because their mass is so much larger than the bricks that commonly adjoin them. Think how easy it would be for a car hitting the corner of a brick wall to knock out several bricks. The rest of the brick in that wall could then easily also move. The large quoins would be a lot harder to get to move in the first place, then would have to move a much greater distance to be knocked out of the wall. Therefore, quoins create a much stronger corner condition where a wall is weakest. As Larry said, it quickly became an aesthetic expression, not just a structural detail for a traditional masonry wall.

  2. October 21, 2010 10:13 am

    Thanks for your helpful input Christian! The way you explained how quoins work was clearly written and makes a lot of sense.

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