Welcome to the Curbed series Learn Something where we discover the story behind one architectural feature common to our city.
Chances are you have seen corbels all over DC without really knowing the proper name or even their purpose. Those wavy under-roof pieces you see—the "corbels"—have been a structural element since Neolithic times and show up throughout many stylistic periods. The name originally comes from the Latin word corvus, meaning "raven", because of its beak-like appearance. To make them builders use a masonry technique that involves stacking overhanging pieces on top of each other. For practical reasons they are used to support things like roof overhangs and balconies, but they can also be a decorative element and in some cases are purely for superficial purposes.
—Vaclav Malek, architectural designer
All photos from GlynLowe