The porte cochere definition is a covered entranceway to a house or other building. Porte cocheres were originally designed as roofed areas large enough for carriages or other wheeled vehicles to pause so passengers could enter or leave the buildings without being exposed to the weather. The carriages could then continue through.
The etymology (word history) of the term porte cochere can be traced back to the 1690s in the French language. That is derived from the Latin porta (gate), although it may have ancient Proto-Indo-European roots. Literally, it means ''carriage door.''
Historically, what we now call porte cocheres were important architectural features of ancient Greek temples and continued to be evident in later Roman and classical architecture. The early European porte cochere was a small, simple structure, basically a wooden roof supported by only two columns. By the time of Renaissance and French King Louis XIV of France (reigned from 1643 to 1715), cities had grown to boast elaborate palaces, mansions, and public buildings. Porte cocheres likewise developed into more elaborate and elegant structures intended to indicate wealth and status. Especially in the Renaissance, they would have been in classical style attached to churches, castles, and the homes of the extremely wealthy. Famous examples of the classical style of porte cocheres include the White House and Buckingham Palace in London, both built in the 18th century. Many 19th-century homes also boast a porte cochere.
Porte cocheres have been used from ancient Greek times as the entrances to temples, to the modern era in public buildings and homes. Their function is to permit passengers to enter or alight from carriages or other wheeled vehicles while being protected from the weather. In modern times, some have lost their original function and may be incorporated into a house as an extra room, used as an outdoor seating/dining space, or even converted into gardens.
Porte cocheres can be constructed of almost any material: wood, stone, or masonry, for example. They could be in any architectural style, usually designed to match the building to which they were attached, whether a royal palace, city dwelling, or country home. As part of a great palace or mansion, they sometimes included a room or office to house the guards on duty.
Porte cocheres did, however, originally function as structures sheltering the vehicles passing through them. They differ from carports in that vehicles are not intended to park under them as they are in carports. They also differ from porticos, which mostly serve as roofed structures over a main entrance to shelter those walking into a house or other building. These may be as simple or elaborate in design as a porte cochere but have this different function.
Some buildings have porches large enough for an entire vehicle to pass under them. This type of porch is called a porte cochere. The term comes from the French language, and it means 'gate' or 'coach door.'
At first, the term 'porte cochere' referred to a large entrance gate that opened to allow carriages to enter into a courtyard. They were popular during the Renaissance time period. If you were alive when Louis XIV was King of France, you would have seen porte cocheres as common features of large homes and palaces. Such structures were common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Later, the porte cochere became a covered porch or passage over a driveway at a building's entrance, sometimes called a carriage porch. It was often found on the side of a structure and was a single story, and large enough for a carriage to stop under to allow passengers to get off. As these definitions suggest, porte cocheres were elements that signaled a certain wealth or status -- not all homes (or palaces!) were large enough to have covered driveway porches. Buckingham Palace in Great Britain and the White House in Washington D.C., are examples of places that have porte cocheres.
Porte cocheres can be done in any architectural style and may be constructed of materials like wood, masonry or stone. They might be supported by columns, arches or other structural elements that allow an open space below the roof.
Many porte cocheres have open sides, often supported by columns. They may also include railings, benches, and other elements. The north entrance to the White House (called a portico, although it is a porte cochere) is a famous example of a classical style porte cochere with columns supporting a peaked roof. Like most porte cocheres, its design matches the structure to which it is attached. This permits porte cocheres to be made of almost any material, so long as the structure matches or harmonizes with the building.
The classic design of porte cocheres refers back to their early Greek roots. This design is almost always symmetrical. Most classical porte cocheres have columns in a variety of Greek and Roman styles: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian (Greek), or Tuscan or Composite (Roman).
The north entrance to the White House (called a portico but actually a porte cochere) is a famous example of a classical style porte cochere with columns supporting a peaked roof. It is made of Maryland Seneca sandstone. Like most porte cocheres, its design matches the structure to which it is attached. This permits porte cocheres to be made of almost any material, so long as the structure matches or harmonizes with the building.
The design of modern porte cocheres often differs markedly from the classical version, although the movement to revive classical design means many are constructed in that style. These porte cocheres may be made of any material so long is it matches or harmonizes with the building to which it is attached. Likewise, decorative elements may classic or fanciful, in any style or referring to any period. One famous example of a modern porte cochere is at the Mauna Loa Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaiii.
A porte cochere driveway is designed to allow vehicles to pass from the street into an interior courtyard. Like other porte-cocheres, it is a roofed structure, designed to shelter passengers as they enter or exit the building. They may be attached to structures of any type, including public buildings.
Tudor-style homes are based on the design of structures popular in England during the years from 1485 to 1603 when the Tudor family ruled. The most famous Tudors are Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I. These buildings, as well as their modern look-alikes, are best known for their steep pitched roofs and half-timbered exteriors (a half-exposed wooden framework in decorative patterns, with the spaces filled with bricks or stucco). Porte cocheres attached to these buildings have a similar design.
Some French countryside style homes also have porte-cocheres, although certainly only the grandest of them. Even so, these country homes are less elaborate and more subdued than their luxurious city cousins. Likely to be constructed of natural stone or brick, they are often also called Provencal homes, and attempt to blend in with their surroundings rather than stand out from them. They typically have tall, sloped roofs and tall, rectangular windows. A porte-cochere in this style would mimic the house as far as possible.
Both Georgian and Colonial home styles are extremely popular in the United States, and both lend themselves to the inclusion of porte cocheres. The colonial style, dating back to the early settlement of the country, is simple, symmetrical, and rectangular with a central front door. Usually made of wood, they are commonly two or three stories high. Georgian style homes came later in American history, often found in grand buildings in growing cities. They tend to be larger than most colonials, and even more rigid in their symmetry. Most commonly made of brick, they can also be seen with exteriors of stone or stucco. Again, the porte cochere would have the same appearance.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably (as in the White House North Portico, which is actually a porte cochere) the two structures have very different purposes. A porte cochere is designed for vehicles, while a portico is designed for walkers. A porte cochere, generally at ground level, allows passengers to enter or alight from vehicles while protected from the weather. A portico is designed for walkers entering a building's main entrance, often up a set of stairs, but also protected from the weather. In either case, the structures echo the design of the building to which they are attached.
A porte cochere is a roofed structure that allows vehicles to pause while those entering or alighting from a vehicle are sheltered from the weather. A vehicle enters a porte cochere driveway, passes through the porte cochere, and then continues to an interior courtyard or other area to park. Porte cocheres may be built in any style or material, but mimic or echo the style and material of the building to which they are attached. During the Renaissance, they would have been in classical style attached to churches, castles, and the homes of the extremely wealthy. They are different from carports in that they are not meant to have vehicles parked beneath them. They also differ from porticos in that they are meant to accommodate vehicles, while porticos are for walkers. Porte cocheres differ from garages, which are enclosed on three sides to protect parked vehicles. Tudor-style homes, based on the design of 17th-century English homes, as well as French countryside style homes and Georgian and Colonial homes are popular in the U.S. and many are built with porte cocheres.
Although carriages are a thing of the past, porte cocheres are still found on larger houses today. Just remember, they're different from garages, which have three enclosed sides, because vehicles go all the way through them. They're also larger than porticoes, which are smaller covered walkways to buildings.