In some dictionaries, roundel is listed with nine different definitions — but the architectural definition describes a round window or small circular panel.
The roundel can be found in walls, windows, dormers, doors, transoms and sidelights. Its distinctive form makes it quite striking both from a distance and in close proximity.
These circular shapes are found in most architectural styles in either clear or stained glass, and can be singular design elements or incorporated into a larger composition.
Roundels are evident on many buildings in Lancaster city, including the Queen Anne-style Southern Market building on South Queen Street designed by C. Emlen Urban; the Second Empire-style Excelsior building on East King Street; several Neoclassical buildings found on the campus of Franklin & Marshall College; and on the gable end of an exquisite Beaux Arts-style residence on West Chestnut Street.
Towns and villages surrounding the city also have examples of roundels. Examples can easily be found on Victorian-era residences, farmhouses and even barns throughout Lancaster County. Be sure to look for examples of roundel bottle glass transoms above doors, which are most striking at night with backlighting.
- Are there other names used to describe the roundel? Bull’s eye, oculus, oeil-de-boeuf, oxeye and circular also describe this architectural feature.
- Does an architectural roundel have to be a window? A roundel can also be an opaque disc or circular shape found on a building’s façade.
- What are some nonarchitectural definitions of roundel? The most common definition refers to the round shapes used for insignias, especially military aircraft logos like the U.S. Air Force circle with a single star, or corporate logos like Target’s.
- This column is contributed by Gregory J. Scott, AIA, a local architect with more than four decades of national experience in innovation and design. Email GScott@rlps.com.