Glossary – Basic Definitions of Some Architecture Words

Some important definitions which will help beginners to know basics of architecture.

  • Abacus: A slab, the uppermost member of a capital.
  • Arch: A structure supported only at the sides, usually curved, made of wedge-shaped blocks, used to span an opening.
  • Architrave: The beam, which rests on the column; the lowest division of the entablature.
  • Base: Either the lowest part of a structure or the lower section of a wall, pier of column.
  • Beam: One of the main horizontal supporting pieces of a building.
  • Brackets: A projection from a structure, supporting or strengthening a load above it. May be added as an ornament with no other purpose.
  • Capital: The top or head of a column.
  • Classical: Classic in Latin meant “superior”. Relating to ancient Greece or Rome and/or “adherence to traditional standards (as of simplicity, restraint, and proportion) that are universally and enduringly valid.”
  • Colonial: Architecture created pre-1776, during the colonial period.
  • Colonnade: A series of columns placed at regular intervals.
  • Column: A supporting pillar, consisting of a shaft, base, and capital.
  • Corinthian: The lightest and most ornate of the Greek orders of architecture, characterized by a bell-shaped capital covered with acanthus leaves.
  • Cornice: The top, projecting part of the entablature.
  • Courtyard: An open space or enclosure next to a building or buildings.
  • Dentils: Small blocks, projecting like teeth, in a series.
  • Dome: A hemispherical roof placed over a room.
  • Doorway: The opening or void that a door closes.
  • Doric: The oldest and simplest Greek architectural order.
  • Dormer: A window projecting out from a sloping roof or the entire roofed structure containing the window.
  • Entablature: The upper part of an order of architecture that rests upon the columns, consisting of an architrave, frieze, and cornice. This is a classical word for beam.
  • Facade: The front or face of a building.
  • Federal: (1790-1820) so called because the architecture appeared at the time of the birth of our nation. Also called Post-Colonial or Adamesque—Federal.
  • Flutes: On the column shaft, a series of vertical grooves.
  • Footing: The enlarged area on which the foundation sits.
  • Foundation: The masonry or substructure of a building. Sometimes referred to as platform.
  • Frieze: The central space of the entablature. Also a sculptured or richly ornamented band.
  • Georgian: Architecture of or related to one of the reigns of, one of the Georges of Great Britain. “George III was in charge when America gained its independence…Technically, in America, a true Georgian house must have been built prior to the establishment of this nation’s independence…” Use of Palladian doorways and windows, with modillions (projections under the eaves) and quoins.
  • Gothic: “Of, relating to, or having the characteristics of a style of architecture developed in northern France and spreading through western Europe from the middle of the 12th century to the early 16th century that is characterized by the converging of weights and strains at isolated points upon slender vertical piers and counterbalancing buttresses and by pointed arches and vaulting.”
  • Greco-Roman: Relating to the Greek and Roman styles of architecture.
  • Greek Revival: A style of building which uses ancient Greek architecture. Although buildings at many times use this style, in the 1820’s, and for thirty years thereafter America was feeling strong and this feeling was expressed architecturally by reviving the spirit of the ancient Greek Republic.
  • Hearth: A brick, stone, or cement area in front of a fireplace. “The heart of the house.”
  • Ionic: An order of architecture characterized by the spiral volutes of its capital.
  • Keystone: The wedge-shaped piece at the top of the arch which locks the other pieces in place.
  • Modern Architecture: Involves a break from the past and uses recent technologies and new forms or new combinations of old forms. “Modern architecture has stripped itself of a comfortable vocabulary.”
  • Monument: A stone, sculpture, and/or building erected in remembrance of a person, persons, or event.
  • Moldings: A decorative recessed or relieved surface used either for ornamentation and/or finishing.
  • Neoclassicism: A revival of the classical.
  • Niche: A recess in a wall for a statue.
  • Ornament: “A useful accessory; something that lends grace or beauty; a manner or quality that adorns; an embellishment.”
  • Pedestal: The support or base of a column.
  • Pediment: The triangular wall section above the entablature.
  • Pergola: Parallel colonnades usually supporting an open roof.
  • Pilaster: A decorative column projecting from the wall not serving to hold up the building.
  • Plan: A diagram drawn to show the shape of a building and the arrangement of its parts.
  • Porch: A covered entrance to a building, usually with a separate roof.
  • Portico: A colonnade at the entrance of a building.
  • Pylon: The monumental gateway of an Egyptian temple.
  • Romanesque: “The Romanesque style is characterized by rounded arches, squat columns and massive, crudely cut (rusticated) blocks of stone.”
  • Roof: The cover of a building.
  • Shaft: The part of a column between the capital and the base.
  • Tower: “A building or structure typically higher than its diameter and high relative to its surroundings that may stand apart (as a campanile), or be attached (as a church belfry) to a larger structure, and that may be fully walled in or of skeleton framework (as an observation or transmission tower.)”
  • Tudor: Architecture related to the period in English history when the royal house of Tudor ruled from 1845 to 1603.
  • Tympanum: The recessed space within a pediment, between the upper and lower cornices.
  • Victorian: Relating to the time during which Queen Victoria of Great Britain reigned (1837-1901).
  • Wall: A material layer enclosing space.
  • Window: An opening in a building which can be capable of being open and shut.
  • Wing: An addition or extension to a building.

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  1. jolly231080 says

    This is really good. Thanks
    This is really good. Thanks for sharing your information with us. I would like to know the true definition of minimalism in the scope of interior design and could anyone of you explain what is golden rectangle and how it is used to calculate proportions of the buildings in modern area.

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