A wall that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.
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A load-bearing wall or bearing wall is a wall that is an active structural element of a building, that is, it bears the weight of the elements above said wall, resting upon it by conducting its weight to a foundation structure. The materials most often used to construct load-bearing walls in large buildings are concrete, block, or brick.
By contrast, a curtain wall provides no significant structural support beyond what is necessary to bear its own materials or conduct such loads to a bearing wall.
Load-bearing walls are one of the earliest forms of construction. The development of the flying buttress in Gothic architecture allowed structures to maintain an open interior space, transferring more weight to the buttresses instead of to central bearing walls. For example, the Notre Dame Cathedral has a load-bearing wall structure with flying buttresses.
The birth of the skyscraper era, the concurrent rise of steel as a more suitable framing system first designed by William Le Baron Jenney, and the limitations of load-bearing construction in large buildings led to a decline in the use of load-bearing walls in large-scale, commercial structures.