Glossary of Architectural Terms
See below for an explanation of fine art
terminology used in Architecture history
A - B
- C - D - E - F
- G - H-J - K - L
- M - N - O - P-Q
- R - S - T - U-V
uppermost part or division of the capital of a column, usually shaped
like a parallelepiped; the architrave rests on it.
collection of buildings, such as a church, cloisters, and guest rooms,
that compose a monastery complex ruled by an abbot.
structure supporting the lateral thrust of an arch or vault; see vault
pedestal or figure placed at the three angles of a pediment.
opening, such as door or window, framed by columns, with a pediment; see
Classic Greek architecture.
AEG Turbine Factory
Iconic example of early modernist architecture designed by Peter
Behrens (1868-1940), who was also noted for his pupils Waler Gropius,
Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.
style of Greek architecture found in the 6th century BCE; sometimes called
division of space at the sides of a church, parallel to the nave and separated
from it by piers or arcades.
recess, niche, or reception hall in ancient Parthian building or mosque.
architectural form created by two horseshoe arches paired at the sides
of a central column.
Akropolis (or acropolis)
fortified citadel in Greek cities. "The Acropolis" usually refers
to the one in Athens.
rectangular panel that frames an arch, usually horseshoe-shaped.
in antiquity, a raised structure composed of a wooden plank or stone on
which sacrifices were offered. In Christian religion, the altar is used
for the celebration of the Mass; initially made of wood, altars were later
made of stone, marble, or other materials.
in Christian church architecture, the picture or decorated screen behind
the altar. It may consist of a single painting or an elaborate group of
reading desk or pulpit in early Christian church, usually of stone. Normally
there were two, facing each other on each side of the choir.
continuation of the aisles of the choir around the apse, sometimes giving
access to smaller chapels; see church.
Amorino (pl. amorini)
small Putto; usually winged.
arena surrounded by tiered seats. Used from the 1st century BCE throughout
the Roman world for public spectacles.
vaulted roof over a ring-shaped (annular) space, between two concentric
walls; see vault construction.
upright architectural ornament found in Classical buildings, where it
decorated the ends of a roof ridge.
uppermost point of a triangular or conical form.
semicircular or polygonal end of a church; usually the end of the chancel,
at the east end.
a series of arches, often supporting a wall, with their columns or piers.
A blind arcade is an arcade set against a wall without openings in the
usually curved architectural member spanning an opening and serving as
support. According to the shape of the curve, arches are identified by
a variety of names, including round arches, pointed or ogee arches, trefoil,
lancet, basket-handle, or Tudor arches, or horseshoe arches, typical of
Arab architecture. A rampant arch is an arch in which one abutment is
higher than the other. Hanging arches are tall blind arches, often reaching
1 science or art of building. 2 the structure or style of what is built.
See also: Greatest Architects (1400
the lowest division of an entablature; a horizontal beam supported by
moulding or cornice, bare or decorated, that follows the contour of an
arch, whether on the outside face (lintel) or on the inside (intrados).
Art Nouveau architecture
Decorative design movement centred on Europe, led by Victor Horta (1861-1947)
in Belgium, Antoni Gaudi
(1852-1926) in Spain and Hector
Guimard (1867-1942) in France.
squared, even-faced block of stone.
figures of men used to support an entablature. The female equivalent is
1 forecourt of Roman house leading to various rooms. 2 court in front
of Early Christian and Romanesque churches.
in classical architecture, the part of a building above the main order
on a facade. This area can often become a separate storey of the building.
square column of Greek architectural order, or pilasters applied to upper
story of building.
terracotta or majolica glazed tiles in bright colours, used for floors
and both interior and exterior wall dressings. Of Arabic origin, their
use spread in Spain beginning in the 13th century.
small pillar or column supporting rail.
series of balusters, usually edging terrace or balcony.
a part of a church or a separate building near a church in which baptismal
rites are performed.
from the Arabic Persian bahhana (a fortified gallery), a defensive structure
in front of a gate, such as a tower, an outer defensive work, a reinforced
area on the
internal part of a wall, most of all in medieval and Renaissance fortresses.
a covered storage space attached to a farm house; the word is used for
the bodies forming the wings of Palladian villas, which usually function
as service areas.
In Italy: mostly religious building design, exemplified by the Roman designs
of Bernini (1598-1680)
and his rival, Francesco
medieval church in which the nave is taller than the aisles; early churches
had an apse at one end. It was based on the Roman assembly hall, or the
design of colonnaded halls in private houses. The most famous example
is St Peter's Basilica
in Rome, the second largest church in the world.
Bauhaus Design School
Avant-garde school of architecture and crafts in Weimar, founded by Walter
the space formed, usually within a church where the limits are indicated
by Orders, vaults, etc, rather than by walls. On an external wall a bay
may be indicated by buttresses.
horizontal structural member, usually made of wood, bearing a load.
combination of Neo-Baroque and Neo-Renaissance architecture that symbolized
the Belle Epoque. The leading American exponents were Richard
Morris Hunt (1827-95) and Cass
Benedictine, or stepped, choir
choir flanked by rectangular areas of decreasing size.
cruciform basilican plan with a nave and two aisles, projecting transept,
choir, and flat-ended side chapels.
ornamentation formed by short cylindrical or rectangular blocks placed
at regular intervals in hollow moldings.
Like The Palace of Versailles in France, Blenheim - designed by Sir
John Vanbrugh (1664-1726)
- was a symbol of the Baroque style in England.
A form of postmodernist 20th-Century
architecture, marked by bulging curves.
ornamental projection, of wood or stone, placed at the join of vaulting,
ribs, etc; see vault construction.
a formal grove of trees, containing at least five of the same species,
used in formal French gardens, such as those at the Palace of Versailles
(see below), designed by Andre le Notre.
Bow window (also bay window)
a window forming a recess in a room while also projecting beyond the exterior
wall, in so doing increasing the amount of light.
projection that functions as a support; may also be decorative.
Iconic neoclassical building in Berlin designed and built by Carl
Gotthard Langhans (1732-1808) during the period 1789-94. His pioneering
neoclassicism was further popularized by Karl
Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841).
shutter to block sunlight.
reinforced, projecting wall, usually on the exterior of a building, supporting
it at a point of stress. A flying buttress transmits the thrust of a vault
to an outer support; see vault construction.
convex rope-like molding found in Norman architecture. Sometimes also
refers to similar decoration in goldsmiths' work.
freestanding bell tower of church.
suspended or projected miniature roof over an altar, seat, statue, or
a beam supported or fixed at one end carrying a load at the other.
architectural element that crowns a vertical support element (column,
pilaster, or pier) and is thus located beneath a horizontal lintel, entablature,
or arcade. It is composed of a lower part (echinus), often decorated,
and a simpler upper part (abacus). The basic types of capitals are the
Doric, composed of a square abacus resting on a circular echinus; Ionic,
with a generally ornate echinus ending in spiral volutes and a somewhat
flat abacus; Corinthian, a bell-shaped cone decorated by flowers and leaves;
Tuscan, similar to the Doric, with wider and lower echinus; and composite,
made up of Ionic elements (volutes) and Corinthian (leaves). There are
also crocket, or hooked, capitals, Gothic capitals decorated with stylized
decoration of a building with battlements and turrets, like a castle;
the result may be described as castellated.
seat or throne made of wood, marble, or ivory, often decorated with inlays
and bas-relief, located behind the altar at the end of the apse and used
by the bishop during religious functions. Its presence creates a cathedral.
from the presence of the bishop's throne, or cathedra; the principal church
of a diocese, the church where a bishop officiates. The most famous cathedrals
are probably the Gothic
cathedrals of Northern France. These include: Chartres
Cathedral (1194-1250); Notre-Dame
Cathedral Paris (1163-1345); as well as those at Reims and Amiens.
In Germany, the most famous is Cologne
Cathedral (1248-1880); in Italy, Florence Cathedral (1296-1436) and
those at Milan and Siena; as well as Burgos and Santiago de Compostela
a compartment, most especially one of the four triangular divisions of
a sepulchral monument.
the temporary wooden structure built to support an arch or vault during
capital whose square angles are cut obliquely.
east end of church containing the altar.
a small room used for worship. A chapel can be isolated or included within
a larger architectural complex. In most cases numerous chapels, each with
an altar, are arranged along the length of a nave or aisle or around the
the large room in a convent, monastery, or cathedral in which the chapter
meets (the canons or members of the religious order); in monasteries and
convents it usually faces a large cloister.
the far end of a church, beyond the transept and including the choir,
apse, and ambulatory. It can have a variety of plans and in Gothic architecture
often includes radiating chapels.
1 zigzag molding in Norman architecture. 2 pattern of V shapes.
Chicago School of Architecture
leading group of pioneer skyscraper architects, led by William
Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907). Please see also: Second
Chicago School of Architecture (c.1940-75) led by Mies
van der Rohe.
term taken from ancient Greek drama (chorus); in a Christian church it
is the area reserved for cantors and the clergy, usually composed of wooden
stalls often carved or inlaid with a reading stand for the choristers.
Today the term indicates the area included between the transept and the
apse or the zone of the church located behind the main altar. According
to its shape it can be ambulatory, stepped or Benedictine, or triconch.
1 vaulted canopy over an altar. 2 vessel for holding consecrated host.
Drum-shaped structure, often pierced with windows, and supporting a dome.
in British usage, an open area at a street junction or intersection or
a group of buildings arranged around such a space, which may then serve
as a public garden.
Classic Greek architecture
apogee of Greek architectural design, much imitated in later architecture.
upper story of nave of chruch, pierced with windows; see vault construction.
covered walk around a space, usually square, with a wall on one side and
columns on the other. In Christian monasteries it often links the church
and domestic quarters.
1 Ornamental sunken panel recessed into ceiling or vault, which may then
be described as coffered. 2 chest for valuable objects.
row of columns supporting entablature.
vertical architectural element with support function, usually cylindrical
and composed of a base, shaft, and capital. The lower third of a column
is often thicker (entasis) and then tapers slightly upward. Columns can
be arranged in groups or can be free-standing. They can also be engaged,
meaning set into a wall.
Composite order: see orders of architecture.
Concha (or conch)
the domed roof of a semicircular apse.
mixture of sand, stone, and cement used as a building material, especially
in the 20th century.
1 architectural term for scrolled bracket. 2 in furniture, a side table
with marble top.
projection on a wall, bearing a weight.
series of corbels built one above the other.
Corinthian order: see orders of architecture.
1 upper member of an entablature. 2 ornamental molding finishing the part
to which it is attached, (eg) at the junction of a wall and ceiling.
the principal section or block of a large building, such as a palace or
mansion, containing the entrance and main rooms.
Cosmati work, Cosmatesque
a type of inlaid marble mosaic practised by Roman marble workers in the
12th and 13th centuries, so-named from the mistaken belief that all the
city's leading marble workers came from the same family.
architectural term for elements used in pairs, as in coupled columns.
two pilasters standing on the same pedestal.
concave molding, especially between the ceiling and cornice of a room.
the formation of battlements, in which the openings are known as crenelles.
in British usage, a group of buildings arranged along a curving street
line of ornament finishing a roof or wall.
in Gothic architecture, a carved decoration, usually leaf-shaped, projecting
from the sides of pinnacles or gables.
the space in a church where nave, chancel, and transepts meet. Bay or
other area of a church defined by the crossing of the main nave and the
transept. According to how the two bodies intersect, the crossing can
be isolated, in which the nave and transept are the same height and the
square bay is defined by four equal and opposing arches, or suppressed,
in which the bay is defined by lower and narrower arches that clearly
separate the crossing from the transept, from the nave and from the choir.
church plan, common in Armenia.
cross-shaped; used especially of a church that has transepts.
underground area composed of one or more chambers located beneath the
presbytery in a church. The crypt originated in the apostolic tombs made
in Roman basilicas during the age of Constantine; beginning in the 7th
century it assumed the function of housing the relics of the martyr saint
to whom the church was dedicated. An annular crypt is surrounded by a
semicircular ambulatory that follows the shape of the apse above; if other
aisles and rooms are located off the crypt it is called a hall crypt.
Beginning in the 10th-11th centuries the crypt took the shape of a nave
and was enlarged, almost becoming a second, underground, church. Another
name for the crypt is lower church.
domed vault roof.
outer wall of castle joining towers and gate-house. Also refers to a wall
that divides space without bearing weight.
base of a capital associated with early medieval architecture; shaped
like a cube but with rounded edges and corners. See Cushion capital.
square capital with rounded corners, found chiefly in Romanesque and early
medieval buildings; see vault construction.
point at which two arcs meet in Gothic arch or tracery.