wall, in architecture, protective, enclosing, or dividing vertical structure. Its thickness is determined by the material, height, and stress. It may be of studding and lath, either boarded or plastered; adobe; rammed earth ; brickwork or stonework; concrete; tile; or of steel in combination with one or more of the preceding materials. The wall serves two functions. A bearing wall is used as a support, e.g., for the floors and roof. Usually raised on foundations, it is thicker at the bottom than at the top and is often buttressed. A nonbearing wall, such as a partition screen or curtain wall, is used to separate and define spaces and is generally much thinner. A party wall is one common to two adjoining buildings, and a gable wall is one at right angles to the roof ridge. A fire wall, or bulkhead, separates hazardous equipment from the rest of a structure to prevent the spreading of fire; in ships the bulkhead is also watertight. The front wall or face of a building is termed the facade . Exterior walls may be finished with stucco or graffito and enhanced by bas-relief, tile, mosaic, or painted decoration. Arcade, rustication, and vermiculated work are means of ornamenting brick and stone masonry. In engineering a retaining wall either of Cyclopean or of wet masonry protects an embankment from washing; a sea wall, or breakwater , is for harbor protection; and a dam is an earth, masonry, or concrete wall to stop the natural flow of a stream to conserve a water supply or create power. The defensive walls of a city or other political division (see Great Wall of China ) are frequently two or three concentric ramparts, often including fortification and watchtowers. Great portals form the gateways. Notable walls of antiquity were those of Thebes, Troy, Jericho, and Babylon; an example of a medieval wall is that at Carcassonne in France.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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