Wall Panellings are very similar to partition walls, except that panellings are wall dependent systems, so do not need lateral stability, and are useful on one side only. Panelling differs from cladding system as the latter ones are fixed with no cavity with the wall. A small cavity between the cavity and the panelling serves manifold purposes: service or utility space, insulation against heat, reduced sound or vibration transfer, level adjustments (cover a rough wall or create a curve or surface undulations).
Fixing panelling requires design considerations. Framing for the panelling, visible or concealed, its divisions must follow the fixing geometry. Panellings are fixed with localized spacers or studs (in vertical, horizontal or both directions). For studs in vertical direction 400 mm spacing is most common. For local spacers 200 x 400 grids are used.
For the past 400 years, wood planks, wood veneered boards, gypsum plaster on a lathe, gypsum boards have been materials for panelling. Today extruded plastic sections, pre-coated metal sections, and composite boards are widely used. Modern day panelling systems are factory-finished so require no post fitting finishing or painting. Prefab panels are usually demountable and reusable. Pre-fab panel systems are designed with concerns such as acoustic and insulation properties, impact resistance, allergic properties, fire escape time, pollution hazards, disposal systems and demountability.
CLASSICAL PANELLING : WAINSCOTTING
Classical panelling consisted of large pieces of marble with engraving, wood and cast metal panels with inlay, engravings or other treatment fixed into specifically designed niche or alcove spaces formed within a design grid. The niches were made emphatic by surrounds, edge borders, half or full pillars, rustication, reveals, mouldings, pediment or eaves, bracketed sill shelves. In place of marble or mosaic design paintings or statuettes were also placed.
Later in Medieval period wood became the chief material for panelling. Oak was the common wood. Panelling occurred as small as a skirting band of 200 to 400 mm height at floor level. The skirting band was a plain-finished covering stripe, except for the top edge moulding. The band skirted around the floor touching elements like niches, alcoves, windows and doors, accentuating the contours by chamfered edge junctions of the moulding. The Skirting band later had a projecting out mouldings at the bottom edge.
The Skirting edge was extended to the sill of the windows or work top. It was called Wainscot (from Middle Dutch waghen-scot= wagon plank). The French equivalent for wainscot is boiserie. Boiserie is profusely decorated panelling that commonly covers the wall up to the ceiling and may also be painted, gilded, or, in some instances, inlaid. It was often carved in low relief, of the 17th and 18th C. in France.
Wainscots are like the extended skirting bends but also accommodated fixed furniture items like lower level cabinets, dressing units, secretary cabinets, chests and fireplaces. Wainscots were later extended a little beyond the top level of doors and windows and became panelling systems. The door or window lintel level panelling systems had top level continuous capping band. But unlike the skirting band, these were ‘wholly moulded and projecting out entities’. These top band were met by the curved down ceilings. Full wall panelling systems enforced a distinct regimen in Architectural designing and Interior space planning, as all the sizes had to be modulated. Window and Door placement had to be classical or formally balanced. These also forced designers to articulate and coordinate interiors and exteriors.