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The following is
a list of definitions of terms within architecture,
A [ top ]
Subsidiary space alongside the body of a building,
separated from it by columns, piers, or posts.
Raised panel below a window or wall monument or tablet.
Vaulted semicircular or polygonal end of a chancel
Passage or walkway covered over by a succession of
arches or vaults supported by columns. Blind arcade
or arcading: the same applied to the wall surface.
A curved structure capable of spanning a space while
supporting significant weight.
Formalized lintel, the lowest member of the classical
entablature. Also the moulded frame of a door or window
(often borrowing the profile of a classical architrave).
Sharp edge where two surfaces meet at an angle.
Articluation is the manner or method of jointing parts
such that each part is clear and distinct in relation
to the others, even though joined.
Masonry of large blocks cut with even faces and square
(Plural: atria): inner court of a Roman or C20 house;
in a multi-storey building, a toplit covered court
rising through all storeys.
Small top storey within a roof. The storey above the
main entablature of a classical façade.
B [ top ]
Dwarf-wall of plain masonry, carrying the roof of
a cathedral or church and masked or hidden behind
Small moulded shaft, square or circular, in stone
or wood, sometimes metal, supporting the coping of
a parapet or the handrail of a staircase.
A series of balusters supporting a handrail or coping.
The lowest, subordinate storey of building often either
entirely or paritially below ground level; the lowest
part of classical elevation, below the piano nobile.
Originally a Roman, large roofed hall erected for
transacting business and disposing of legal matters.;
later the term came to describe an aisled building
with a clerestory. Medieval cathedral plans were a
development of the basilica plan type.
Internal compartments of a building; each divided
from the other by subtle means such as the boundaries
implied by divisions marked in the side walls (columns,
pilasters, etc) or the ceiling (beams, etc). Also
external divisions of a building by fenestration (windows).
Window of one or more storeys projecting from the
face of a building. Canted: with a straight front
and angled sides. Bow window: curved. Oriel: rests
on corbels or brackets and starts above ground level;
also the bay window at the dais end of a medieval
Chamber or stage in a tower where bells are hung.
Term used to describe the manner in which bricks are
laid in a wall so that they interlock.
A roughly cut stone set in place for later carving.
Also, an ornamental projection, a carved keystone
of a ribbed vault at the intersection of the ogives.
Uncut stone that is laid in place in a building, projecting
outward from the building, to later be carved into
decorative moldings, capitals, arms, etc. Bossages
are also rustic work, consisting of stones which seem
to advance beyond the surface of the building, by
reason of indentures, or channels left in the joinings;
used chiefly in the corners of buildings, and called
rustic quoins. The cavity or indenture may be round,
square, chamfered, bevelled, diamond-shaped, or enclosed
with a cavetto or listel.
Type of support. An arc-boutant, or flying buttress,
serves to sustain a vault, and is self-sustained by
some strong wall or massive work. A pillar boutant
is a large chain or jamb of stone, made to support
a wall, terrace, or vault. The word is French, and
comes from the verb bouter, "to butt" or
Bracket (see also
A weight-bearing member made of wood, stone, or metal
that overhangs a wall.
Projecting fins or canopies which shade windows from
A small oval window, set horizontally.
Bressummer - (Literally
A large, horizontal beam supporting the wall above,
especially in a jettied building.
Barricade of beams and soil used in 15th and 16th
century fortifications designed to mount artillery.
On board ships the term refers to the woodwork running
round the ship above the level of the deck. Figuratively
it means anything serving as a defence.
Vertical member projecting from a wall to stabilize
it or to resist the lateral thrust of an arch, roof,
or vault. A flying buttress transmits the thrust to
a heavy abutment by means of an arch or half-arch.
C [ top ]
(plural:Cancelli) Barriers which correspond to the
modern balustrade or railing, especially the screen
dividing the body of a church from the part occupied
by the ministers hence chancel. The Romans employed
cancelli to partition off portions of the courts of
Cauliculus, or caulicole
Stalks (eight in number) with two leaves from which
rise the helices or spiral scrolls of the Corinthian
capital to support the abacus.
In Roman architecture, the vestibule or portico of
a public building opening on to the forum, as in the
basilica of Eumactria at Pompeii, and the basilica
of Constantine at Rome, where it was placed at one
end. See: Lacunar.
A coffer, in architecture, is a sunken panel in the
shape of a square, rectangle, or octagon that serves
as a decorative device, usually in a ceiling or vault.
Also called caissons, or lacunar.
Chamber between the pronaos and the cella in Greek
temples where oracles were delivered.
Ring, list, or fillet at the top and bottom of a column,
which divides the shaft from the capital and base.
Style which became prevalent in Italy in the century
following 1500, now usually called 16th-century work.
It was the result of the revival of classic architecture
known as Renaissance, but the change had commenced
already a century earlier, in the works of Ghiberti
and Donatello in sculpture, and of Brunelleschi and
Alberti in architecture.
A low pedestal, either round or rectangular, set up
by the Romans for various purposes such as military
or milestones, boundary posts. The inscriptions on
some in the British Museum show that they were occasionally
An architectural term applied to a covered Greek temple,
in contradistinction to hypaethral, which designates
one that is uncovered the roof of a cleithral temple
(also colarino or collarino) The little frieze of
the capital of the Tuscan and Doric column placed
between the astragal, and the annulets. It was called
hypotrachelium by Vitruvius.
Latin term for the open space left in the roof of
the atrium of a Roman house (domus) for lighting it
and the rooms round.
The upper section of an entablature, a projecting
shelf along the top of a wall often supported by brackets.
Block from which the diagonal ribs of a vault spring
or start. The top of the springer is known as the
A concealed or covered passage, generally underground,
though lighted and ventilated from the open air. One
of the best-known examples is the crypto-porticus
under the palaces of the Caesars in Rome. In Hadrians
villa in Rome they formed the principal private intercommunication
between the several buildings.
Circular projecting portico with columns, like those
of the transept entrances of St Paul's cathedral and
the western entrance of St Mary-le-Strand, London.
D [ top ]
A term used to designate an intercolumniation of three
or four diameters.
Peristyle round the great court of the palaestra,
described by Vitruvius, which measured two stadia
(1,200 ft.) in length, on the south side this peristyle
had two rows of columns, so that in stormy weather
the rain might not be driven into the inner part.
The word was also used in ancient Greece for a foot
race of twice the usual length.
Landing places and passages which were carried round
the semicircle and separated the upper and lower tiers
in a Greek theatre.
Islamic architectural term for the tribune raised
upon columns, from which the Koran is recited and
the prayers intoned by the Imam of the mosque.
Temples which have a double range of columns in the
peristyle, as in the temple of Diana at Ephesus.
A portico which has two columns between antae, known
A temple where the portico has twelve columns in front,
as in the portico added to the temple of Demeter at
Eleusis, designed by Philo, the architect of the arsenal
at the Peiraeus.
One of the three orders or organisational systems
of Ancient Greek or classical architecture characterised
by columns which stood on the flat pavement of a temple
without a base, their vertical shafts fluted with
pararell concave grooves topped by a smooth capital
that flared from the column to meet a square abacus
at the intersection with the horizontal beam that
Dosseret, or impost
Cubical block of stone above the capitals in a Byzantine
church, used to carry the arches and vault, the springing
of which had a superficial area greatly in excess
of the column which carried them.
Entrance passage or avenue leading to a building,
tomb or passageway. Those leading to beehive tombs
are enclosed between stone walls and sometimes in-filled
between successive uses of the tomb. In ancient Egypt
the dromos was straight, paved avenue flanked by sphinxes.
E [ top ]
Large hall in the ancient Palaestra furnished with
seats, the length of which should be a third larger
than the width. It served for the exercises of youths
of from sixteen to eighteen years of age.
Open vestibule behind the nave. The term is not found
in any classic author, but is a modern coinage, originating
in Germany, to differentiate the feature from opisthodomus,
which in the Parthenon was an enclosed chamber.
French term for a raised platform. In the Levant the
estrade of a divan is called Sopha (Blondel), from
which comes our sofa.
Intercolumniation defined by Vitruvius as being of
the best proportion, i.e. two and a half diameters.
F [ top ]
Enclosure or chapel within which the fereter shrine,
or tomb (as in Henry VII.'s chapel), was placed.
Literally translation of “pedestal”, the lower part
of a pier in architecture.
French term for the wall-rib carrying the web or filling-in
of a vault.
G [ top ]
Triangular terminations to buttresses, much in use
in the Early English and Decorated periods, after
which the buttresses generally terminated in pinnacles.
The Early English gablets are generally plain, and
very sharp in pitch. In the Decorated period they
are often enriched with panelling and crockets. They
are sometimes finished with small crosses, but more
often with finials.
Carved or curved molding used in architecture and
interior design as decorative motiff, often consisting
of flutes which are inverted and curved. Popular during
the Italian Renaissance.
The process in which the gallets or small splinters
of stone are inserted in the joints of coarse masonry
to protect the mortar joints. They are stuck in while
the mortar is wet.
The geison (Greek: γεῖσον - often interchangeable
with cornice) is the part of the entablature that
projects outward from the top of the frieze in the
Doric order and from the top of the frieze course
of the Ionic and Corinthan orders; it forms the outer
edge of the roof on the sides of a structure with
a sloped roof.
H [ top ]
Possibly from an older term "heifunon" -
a structural section connecting the main portion of
a building with its projecting "dependencies"
L [ top ]
The Latin name in architecture for paneled or coffered
ceiling, soffit, or vault adorned with a pattern of
recessed paneled .
A loggia is a gallery formed by a colonnade open on
one or more sides. The space is often located on an
upper floor of a building overlooking an open court
M [ top ]
Islamic architectural term given to the sanctuary
or praying-chamber in a mosque, which was sometimes
enclosed with a screen of lattice-work the word is
occasionally used for a similar enclosure round a
A curb roof in which each face has two slopes, the
lower one steeper than the upper. [f. F mansarde (F.
M~, architect, d. 1666)]
Enriched block or horizontal bracket generally found
under the cornice and above the bedmold of the Corinthian
entablature. It is probably so called because of its
arrangement in regulated distances.
Interval of the intercolumniation of the Doric column,
which is observed by the intervention of one triglyph
only between the triglyphs which come over the axes
of the columns. This is the usual arrangement, but
in the Propylaea at Athens there are two triglyphs
over the central intercolumniation, in order to give
increased width to the roadway, up which chariots
and beasts of sacrifice ascended.
Decorative finishing strip.
Vertical bar of wood, metal or stone which divides
a window into two or more parts.
A type of decorative corbel used in Islamic architecture
that in some circumstances, resembles stalactites.
Rectangular block under the soffit of the cornice
of the Greek Doric temple, which is studded with guttae.
It is supposed to represent the piece of timber through
which the wooden pegs were driven in order to hold
the rafter in position, and it follows the sloping
rake of the roof. In the Roman Doric order the mutule
was horizontal, with sometimes a crowning fillet,
so that it virtually fulfilled the purpose of the
modillion in the Corinthian cornice.
O [ top ]
Arrow slits in the walls of medieval fortifications,
but more strictly applied to the round hole or circle
with which the openings terminate. The same term is
applied to the small circles inserted in the tracery-head
of the windows of the Decorated and Perpendicular
periods, sometimes varied with trefoils and quatrefoils.
Greek architecture term for the lowest course of masonry
of the external walls of the naos or cella, consisting
of vertical slabs of stone or marble equal in height
to two or three of the horizontal courses which constitute
the inner part of the wall.
A range of columns placed in a straight row, as for
instance those of the portico or flanks of a classic
P [ top ]
Screen or railing used to enclose a chantry, tomb
or chapel, in a church, and for the space thus enclosed.
Term applied to a temple or other structure where
the columns of the front portico are returned along
its sides as wings at the distance of one or two intercolumniations
from the walls of the naos or cella. Almost all the
Greek temples were peripteral, whether Doric, Ionic,
Planceer or Planchier
Building element sometimes used in the same sense
as a soffit, but more correctly applied to the soffit
of the corona in a cornice.
Term given to the finials or other ornaments which
terminate the tops of bench ends, either to pews or
stalls. They are sometimes small human heads, sometimes
richly carved images, knots of foliage or finials,
and sometimes fleurs-de-lis simply cut out of the
thickness of the bench end and chamfered. The term
is probably derived from the French poupee doll or
puppet used also in this sense, or from the flower,
from a resemblance in shape.
A series of columns or arches in front of a building,
generally as a covered walkway.
Old architectural name given sometimes to the queen
posts of a roof, and sometimes to the filling in quarters
Term defining free standing columns that are widely
spaced apart in a row. The term is often used as an
adjective when referring to a portico which projects
from the main structure.
Temple in which the columns surrounding the naos have
had walls built between them, so that they become
engaged columns, as in the great temple at Agrigentum.
In Roman temples, in order to increase the size of
the celia, the columns on either side and at the rear
became engaged columns, the portico only having isolated
In Classical architecture, the enclosed space of a
portico, peristyle, or stoa, generally behind a screen
Architectural term given by Vitruvius to the intercolumniation
between the columns of a temple, when this was equal
to 11/2 diameters.
R [ top ]
Vault of the internal hood of a doorway or window
to which a splay has been given on the reveal, sometimes
the vaulting surface is terminated by a small rib
known as the scoinson rib, and a further development
is given by angle shafts carrying this rib, known
as scoinson shafts.
The receding edge of a flat face. On a flat signboard,
for example, the return is the edge which makes up
the board's depth.
An entrance door for excluding drafts from an interior
of a building. A revolving door typically consists
of three or four doors that hang on a center shaft
and rotate around a vertical axis within a round enclosure.
S [ top ]
Sommer or Summer
Girder or main "summer beam" of a floor:
if supported on two storey posts and open below, also
called a "bress" or "breast-summer".
Often found at the centerline of the house to support
one end of a joist, and to bear the weight of the
In the classical orders, this describes columns rather
thickly set, with an intercolumniation to which two
diameters are assigned.
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