An Architecture Vocabulary Cheat Sheet for the Budding Enthusiast

An Architecture Vocabulary Cheat Sheet for the Budding Enthusiast

By Dikran Seferian December 08, 2021

Becoming an aficionado of any field of study involves getting acquainted with a fair amount of terminology. While theories, principles, guidelines, categories, and other elements are important, getting familiar with the vocabulary helps put everything else into perspective. Architecture is no different from any other domain when it comes to studying it — even as a hobby. This field of study is typically considered fine art and is known to attract a lot of architecture enthusiasts who are simply fascinated by its history and present. You don’t need to be an architect to know a thing or two about it. However, familiarizing yourself with common architectural terms will allow you to have a solid grasp of the subject. You may even sound like an architect simply by throwing around a few architecture words when discussing a related topic.

Arch: A curved structure that spans an opening. An arch is usually meant to support a wall, roof, or bridge built above it. A series of arches is called an arcade and is usually freestanding or attached to a wall. Arcades are often supported by columns or other vertical structures.

Balustrade: A railing that consists of short posts also known as balusters. A balustrade supports a coping (a horizontal bar) and is usually on the edge of a roof or a staircase.

What is a Balustrade and Where Can You Have One?

What is a Balustrade and Where Can You Have One?

Bonneted: A type of dormer that features a semi-circular roofline and an arched window. Dormers are roofed window boxes that protrude from a sloping roof.

Buttress: A piece of masonry that extends from a wall and serves as a supportive structure. A common feature of extravagant buildings such as Gothic cathedrals, buttresses often counters the weight of an outward thrusting arch or vault.

Bousillage: A type of plaster that consists of mud, clay, and moss applied in poteaux-en-terre construction. Poteaux-en-terre refers to French Colonial construction where large posts are rammed into the ground and the spaces are filled with bousillage.

Cantilever: A type of beam that extends from a wall and is anchored only from that side. A cantilever is a popular element of architecture used in edgy designs such as floating stairs.

Unique Elements of Architecture and Interior Design

Unique Elements of Architecture and Interior Design

Cladding: The application of material over the main layer of a building. Cladding is typically a waterproof material such as wood, metal, or stone — and is meant to protect the building against leakage.

Cupola: A small structure that is sometimes found on rooftops. A cupola often features a dome supported by four arches covering a circular or polygonal space.

Deconstructivism: A postmodern style of architecture characterized by the concept of structural fragmentation devoid of harmony, symmetry, and continuity. Deconstructivism goes against the notion that form follows function.

Eaves: The edges of a roof that hang slightly above the exterior wall and beyond the sides of the house. Eaves are meant to lead rainwater away from the walls but can also add aesthetic value to a building.

Getting Familiar With the Several Parts of a Common Building

Getting Familiar With the Several Parts of a Common Building

Facade: The front exterior wall of a building that normally consists of the main entrance. A facade usually beholds a street or an open area.

Fenestration: The layout, installation, and existence of openings in the envelope of a building. Fenestration can be in the form of windows, skylights, and doors.

Finial: A decorative ornament on a building’s rooftop, canopy, or spire. In styles such as Gothic architecture, a finial is commonly in the form of a fleur-de-lys.

French Doors: Two adjacent doors within a single frame that doesn’t consist of vertical separation in the middle. French doors are also known as ‘double doors’.

Common Door Types That Offer Convenience and Style

Common Door Types That Offer Convenience and Style

Golden Ratio: Proportions used in architecture to maintain cohesiveness between the width and height of a building. The golden ratio was commonly used in Greek architecture.

Juncture: The manner in which different building materials intersect. The juncture ultimately affects how the house will age or if maintenance problems will appear. For instance, an incorrect juncture between a window and a siding may cause leakage.

Modular: A design mode that divides an architectural system into smaller elements known as modules. These modules, also referred to as skids, can then be formed independently to be used in different systems allowing for flexibility and cost reduction.

Pavilion: A small yet important part of a house that sticks out of the main building. A pavilion can either be above the roofline, to the side, or even a stand-alone structure connected to the main building by a pathway or a terrace.

Palladian: A window made up of three parts where the one in the middle is arched and slightly wider than the adjacent ones. Palladian windows are named after Andrea Palladio, a renaissance architect who famously made use of them.

Styling Your Renaissance Interior With Palladian Windows

Styling Your Renaissance Interior With Palladian Windows

Pergola: A structure built above a garden, terrace, or outdoor pathway. A pergola often features uncovered wooden beams supported by evenly spaced posts. In many cases, a vine could run throughout the framework of a pergola.

Renaissance: European architecture that maintained prominence between the early 14th and 16th centuries. Renaissance architecture exhibited a revival of classical architecture combined with ancient Greek and Roman elements. Nowadays, many fancy structures make use of this style as an influence.

Rendering: A perspective illustration that shows an architect's concept of how a finished building or interior would look like. Architectural rendering refers to the creation of a two or three-dimension image of a proposed design.

Scaffolding: A structure that is temporarily installed around a building to support a crew of construction workers or painters. Scaffolding normally consists of wooden boards as surfaces supported by a metal framework.

Common Architecture Words and What Do They Mean

Common Architecture Words and What Do They Mean

Single Hung: a window that features a stationary top sash and a movable sash that opens vertically. An alternative to a single hung window is double hung, where both sashes are movable.

Skylight: A roof opening that features translucent or transparent glass. Skylights are designed to allow natural daylight to enter indoor living spaces. Installations can serve both functional and aesthetic purposes.

Stucco: A plaster coating applied to walls and ceilings, often for decorative purposes. Stucco walls are common elements of Spanish Colonial Architecture and are also familiar to the Mediterranean region.

Tracery: An architectural ornamentation composed of branching lines along the top section of a window. Tracery is a common element of Gothic architecture and is also used as a dramatic feature in residential buildings.

Architectural Methods of Ornamentation You May Use for Your Fancy Design Style

Architectural Methods of Ornamentation You May Use for Your Fancy Design Style

Truncated: (In reference to a roof) Cut off or cut short to form a flat surface. A truncated roof may feature a terrace surrounded by a balustrade along the flat section.

Truss: A supporting framework or structure consisting of wooden or steel beams. A truss is usually shaped like a triangle and is built to support roofs or other structures.

Veranda: An open, often roofed area on the outside of a building. A veranda usually wraps around two or more sides of the house and is enclosed by a balustrade or railing.


Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian


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