Architectural Terms Glossary
An architectural terms glossary contains basic and more complex definitions used by architects and those working in the field.
Arcade - a series of arches atop columns or posts supporting a roof or covering over a walkway.
Arch - curved piece that covers a small or large space and can hold weight.
Attic - a small space on top of a house that's contained within the roof line.
Ball and flower (ball flower) - decoration used in early architecture involving a flower surrounding a ball.
Baluster - support post taking on a rounded or squared shape, often found in a series as a railing.
Barrel vault - one curve that spans a long space such as a barrel vaulted ceiling.
Basement - lowest area of a building, usually located below the ground.
Bays - divisions of a building identified by exterior divisions such as windows or columns.
Bay window - a window that protrudes beyond the façade of a building.
Bow window - a curved window that protrudes beyond the façade of a building.
Oriel window - protruding window that sits on brackets, typically located on the ground level.
Canted window - protruding window with curved or angled sides.
Belfry - area located inside a tower where bells are placed.
Bond - way in which bricks are laid down before mortar is applied.
Bracket - load bearing decorative piece that holds another object in place.
Bullseye window - small round or oblong window, often made of hand blown glass.
Casement window - hinged window that's typically used in a vertical fashion.
Cincture - small ring located on a column to differentiate between the base and shaft.
Copping - wall covering used prior to wallpaper or paint.
Cornice - a protruding shelf located on the roofline of some buildings that sits on brackets.
Dipteral - temples with columns doubled up in the center.
Doric order - Ancient Greek order, notably due to the columns that lack decoration and have no base.
Dormer - protruding additions on the roof of a building.
Fanlight - small windows with a flat bottom and curved or arched top.
Flushwork - ashlar stone and flint used to create a decorative façade on a building.
Gable - triangular raised decoration that lays flush with the roofline.
Gable roof - roof with two sides that slope on either side.
Gambrel roof - similar to a gable roof, but with two pitches on the roof, popular with Dutch Colonial style homes.
Hip roof - roof with four sides that all have a downward angle.
Keystone - decoration placed in the middle of an arch.
Latticework - thin pieces of wood that form a pattern.
Mansard roof - flat roof with sloped sides.
Modillion - decorated blocks or brackets placed below a cornice.
Molding - strip used for decoration.
Mullion - dividers placed inside a window; typically made of wood or metal.
Piano nobile - main floor in an older house.
Portico - arches supporting a roof to form a small patio in front of a building.
Returns - edges placed on the sides of a gambrel roof.
Revolving door - rotating door with separate areas placed inside.
Round arch - arch with a rounded top.
Sash - upper part of a window, may be set in place.
Shingle - material used to cover a roof; typically made of asphalt, slate or wood.
Sunburst - popular pattern used in Art Nouveau to mimic the look of the sun's rays.
Spandrel - section of glass that differentiates between two floors.
Surround - decorative piece that covers the exterior of a window.
Transom - small window or wood block above a door, but still in the doorframe.
Transom bar - piece of wood located above the door and below the transom.
Turret - tower typically located on the side of a building.
Volute - spiral shapes found on columns, usually paired.
Wrought iron - pieces of iron hand turned and hammered into shape.
The following resources may also be of some help: Japanese Architecture Terms, Illustrated Architecture Dictionary, Glossary of Esoteric Architectural and Design Terms, The Gothic Field Guide, and Architectural Ornaments.
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