So how did you do in finding keystones in use around your neighborhood? I made a mental note to look for myself when I was out for a bicycle ride yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day and we went at a leisurely pace on one of the local trails. Along the way, I spotted a few keystones on one of the area bridges that we pedaled by. There were some over the doorways at the local bank building. I spotted a few houses that had keystones placed over the windows as an architectural detail.
I made an interesting observation as I was looking around. Some of the keystones looked great and worked really well whereas others just looked, well, a little off.
The ones that worked well were in proportion with the structure that they were on and, whether they actually served a structural purpose or not, they looked “real”. They were properly sized such that they would work if they were actually structural even though many of them were not. The keystones that didn’t look right were typically on homes where they were added after the fact or by a homeowner that just wanted to add some ‘curb appeal’ to the facade of their home. The idea was good but the size or placement of the keystone that was added was a little off.
Adding architectural detail is a wonderful thing but it has to be believable. The key question to ask is, “If I was building this detail in from the start, would it actually serve its purpose?” In other words, is the keystone the right size to keep the arch from falling down? Is the column the right size and in the right place to keep the roof up? And so on.
Armed with this little bit of design insight, take another look at the keystones you spotted. Do they look right? Here’s hoping they do!