In the masonry arch, a spandrel or spandril (formerly splaundrel, a word of unknown origin) is the space between two arches.

There are four or five accepted and cognate meanings of spandrel in architectural and art history, all relating to the space between a curved figure and a rectangular boundary - such as the space between the curve of an arch and a rectilinear bounding moulding, or the wallspace bounded by adjacent arches in an arcade and the stringcourse or moulding above them, or the space between the central medallion of a carpet and its rectangular corners.

The spandrels over doorways in Perpendicular work are generally richly decorated. At Magdalen College, Oxford, is one which is perforated, and has a most beautiful effect. The spandril of doors is sometimes ornamented in the Decorated period, but seldom forms part of the composition of the doorway itself, being generally over the label.

Because arches are commonly used in bridge construction, spandrels may also appear in those structures. Most arch spans up until the advent of steel and reinforced concrete in the 19th and 20th centuries were solid-spandrel, meaning that the areas between arches were completely filled in—usually with stone. Open-spandrel bridges later became fairly common, where thin ribs were used to connect the upper deck to the bridge arches, resulting in a significant savings in material, weight, and therefore cost. Reinforced-concrete open-spandrel bridges were fairly common for crossing large distances in the 1920s and 1930s.

See also: Cathedral architecture


1 "Spandrels" in biology

2 "Spandrel" AT5

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"Spandrels" in biology

Another usage of the word spandrel was popularized by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin in the paper "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme". In the context of evolution, a spandrel is a metaphor for characteristics that are or were originally side effects and not true adaptations to the environment. They are analogous to misbugs in hacker jargon.

This metaphorical meaning works no matter which kind of architectural spandrel is referred to: the spandrel is the un-designed gap between other features, which is then often exploited for a use of its own.

Reference: Stephen Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin. "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme. (" Proc. Roy. Soc. London B 205 (1979) pp. 581-598

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"Spandrel" AT5

Spandrel is also the NATO reorting name for a Soviet/Russian ATGW (Anti Tank Guided Weapon) or "atni tank missle", the AT5. The AT5 is a SACLOS (Semi Automatic Command - Line of Sight) wire guided anti tank missile. Although roughly equivilant to the US TOW missile, the Spandrel is not man portable and is not intended for use on ground mounts by infantry. Spandrel is widely deployed on vehicles, such as the BMP2/3 and the BRDM.


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