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Canopies & Arcades


Canopy diagram Credit: Charlier Associates A canopy is an architectural projection from the street wall over a portion of the sidewalk, providing weather protection, identity or decoration. Canopies are primarily supported by the buildings to which they are attached but may also feature vertical support members such as poles or small columns.

Fabric canopies are commonly called awnings.  Awnings can meet many of the design functions of canopies. Modern awning fabrics are durable and strong. However, larger awnings may require careful winter maintenance during snow season in the St. Louis region. Canopies (including awnings) should be at least 8 feet above the sidewalk and are normally aligned horizontally at a level above the tops of windows and doors and below the line between the first and second stories of their buildings.

Many cities allow sidewalk seating for restaurants, coffee shops and taverns in the area covered by canopies, as shown below, at right.  This is most common where the building is set back from the public right of way and the canopy covers the private portion of the sidewalk.  However, in some cities, sidewalk seating may also occur on a portion of the public sidewalk where sidewalk widths are adequate and in those cases such seating may occupy the zone under the canopy.

Credit: Charlier Associates
Credit: Charlier Associates

Arcade diagram Credit: Charlier Associates An arcade is a passage or walkway that is structurally part of its building.  Some buildings with arcades have interior space within walls of the building directly above the arcade and walkway.  Others are more ornamental and are attached to building fronts in a manner similar to canopies and awnings. 

In such cases the distinction between an arcade and a canopy may be somewhat blurred and may have to do with significant the vertical poles or columns are and what role they play structurally in supporting the overhead portion of the structure.

Arcades are common in Southwestern cities, where they provide shade and protection from the rain and snow and reflect Mexican and Mediterranean architectural traditions.

In many of these cases, the sidewalk area under the arcade is not in the public right of way, but rather is on the abutting private property (in the setback zone, as shown below, at left).  Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque all have many examples of arcades.

Another version of the arcade is found in the mountainous West in the form of covered boardwalks, as shown below, at right.  Such boardwalks are a vestige of the days before streets and sidewalks were paved and exist today as an expression of local architectural history and often occur in tourist towns as an alternative to canopies.

Credit: Charlier Associates
Credit: Charlier Associates