cornice

In by Mark Goodman

A horizontal projecting course on the exterior of a building, usually at the base of a parapet. In residential construction, the overhang of a pitched roof at the cave line, usually consisting of a fascia board, a soffit for a closed cornice, and appropriate moldings.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
cornice (noun)
1.
a) the molded and projecting horizontal member that crowns an architectural composition - see column illustration
b) a top course that crowns a wall
2.
a decorative band of metal or wood used to conceal curtain fixtures
3.
an overhanging mass of windblown snow or ice usually on a ridge
cornice (verb)
transitive verb
to furnish or crown with a cornice
cornice (Wikipedia)

An example of a cornice, above large corbels, along the top of the maxwell Center Building in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia, United States.
The Egyptian Building (1845) in Richmond, Virginia, with massive cavetto cornice and bell capitals

A cornice (from the Italian cornice meaning "ledge") is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns a building or furniture element – the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the top edge of a pedestal or along the top of an interior wall. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown.

The function of the projecting cornice of a building is to throw rainwater free of the building’s walls. In residential building practice, this function is handled by projecting gable ends, roof eaves, and gutters. However, house eaves may also be called "cornices" if they are finished with decorative molding. In this sense, while most cornices are also eaves (in that they overhang the sides of the building), not all eaves are usually considered cornices – eaves are primarily functional and not necessarily decorative, and a cornice has a decorative aspect to it.

The projecting cornice of a building may appear to be heavy and hence in danger of falling, particularly on commercial buildings, but often it may be very light, made of pressed metal.

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